Polygraph Tests

  Since this story ran I have received a lot of comments from people questioning the validity of polygraph testing. Look for more on this, and the case of the two dead Mexicans, in upcoming posts.

Down The Road with the Original Buffalo Dale

 Welcome back.   To all the bad guys: the term polygraph or lie detector test means trouble for you. Today’s new technology has a 93% accuracy rate so most liars don’t want anything to with it and seldom show up for scheduled tests. Last Friday with nothing to hide I expected my experience with a polygraph test to be entertaining and it was. I hope you think so too.

Polygraphs have been around since the 1920s. Back in the early day, the basis of the testing was measurement of blood pressure, heart rates and breathing patterns which is still in effect today and is now tabulated by computer. With a properly trained examiner the computer can also determine if a subject is on drugs.

Oklahoma is one of 28 states that require polygraph examiners to be licensed. I learned that this is a lengthy process which is overseen by a 5 person State Board governed by Oklahoma’s Attorney General. After licensing, examiners are required to take continuing education classes to keep their skills up to date. There are only a few people who can comply with the rigorous standards of this profession and Roy Clugston out of Tulsa is one of them.

At the start of his career Roy spent fourteen years as a detective with Tulsa’s robbery and homicide units. It was during this time that he first got into the truth and deception business. Since then he has been involved with a range of criminal investigations, from the kidnapping and murder of two women of means in 1977 by Larry Chaney which took place in south Tulsa County to the rape and murder of kindergartener Tammy Michael Moody by a school janitor.

Roy has been a polygraph examiner for thirty-three years and he has performed literally thousands of these tests.  These are some of the things I found particularly interesting about his profession:

Most of his work is done on cases concerning divorce, child molestation and sexual assaults. The assaults are committed against wives but not always.

Defense attorneys use polygraph tests a lot and one myth is that the results are not admissible in court. They are.

In order to perform a test accurately the trained examiner has to know all the facts of a case. He uses this information to build rapport with the subject of the test. The examiner has to establish a relationship with this person way before anything can be hooked up.

All the questions are reviewed before the test begins and there are no tricks or games played to confuse the person who is being tested. Basically the examiner has to understand any slang or cultural idioms a subject might use and be able to use those words in his own speech.  Being a man who idolizes Will Rogers and who always tries to tell the truth, I ain’t scared but I can tell you its very intelligent stuff and way over my head.

Roy told me that the atmosphere in the room where the test is done is also important. His office has several comfortable leather chairs and a very calming environment. You also have to bring any medications you are taking with you and the test costs $500. That might seem like a lot but with the machine costing up to $16,000 and the years of training and continuing education required, it sounded cheap to me to find out the truth of someone’s accusations.

As he put the wires and gadgets around me, Roy told me that he graduated in the first class at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.  He said President Nixon had signed his graduation certificate. With all his experience if I had anything to lie about I think I would just give it up without the machine.

Roy won’t test children under 14, people with pacemakers or who have recently had heart attacks, or the insane. Another interesting fact is that anyone in law enforcement or who is governed by CLEET regulations can be forced to take a lie detector test. CLEET is the state licensing authority for guards and private investigators. Elected government officials are exempt as are most other citizens of the United States because the bottom line is that most polygraph tests can only be performed if the subjects volunteer.


Till next time I’ll see ya down the road….





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