A Psychophysiological Detection of Deception Examination ( for all Politicians )

Presumably the title grabbed your eye, and yes of course I am talking about the polygraph, or as it is often misnamed the “lie detector”. I wrote a couple of blogs ago about not needing a polygraph for Commissioner Lucki, but this is in a different vein. This blog is about to propose a possible solution for a life long problem that we are and have been having with politicians. I can not take credit for this idea, since a friend of mine came up with it and and he proposed I write about it. He is a bit of a philosopher and has been stewing about this particular solution for a number of years. The simplicity of what he was suggesting, I will admit initially made me skeptical. Often times if something seems simple to me, it somehow seems less plausible.

The specific problem which we are about to try and rectify is this: we have reached a stage in this country and around the globe, where politicians universally, no matter what political stripe, are simply not trusted. That actually may be an under-statement, so let me re-state it. We have reached epidemic proportions of mistrust, exacerbated by the likes of Trump on the right and Canada’s own Justin Trudeau on the left. We simply no longer believe them when they say something and they in turn seem confounded by the public questioning of their allegiances or motivations.

The public cynicism is of course well earned, the historic record speaks loudly and clearly. Politician after politician have been caught up in lies, or what they often refer to as “misstatements”, “misdirections”, or “misinterpretations” of what they actually intended to say. In Justin’s case and to be fair in the cases of many others, it is clear many have committed outright lies. For instance some most recent examples include the statement that the police asked for the implementation of the Emergencies Act to deal with the bouncy castle convoy people? Or our dear Commissioner Lucki clearly lying about pressure put upon her by the Bill Blair crew. Do you remember Bill Clinton, Hillary dutifully by his side, turning to face the camera directly and with millions watching to say categorically : “I never had sex with that woman”.

The suggestion being proposed is this. That all politicians while running or sitting in office have to submit to a polygraph test.

Now before we go any further, this writer does fully understand the negative issues surrounding the polygraph, which the U.S. Supreme Court said was no better than “flipping a coin in the air” in the detection of deception. They are right on one significant level. If one assumes that the polygraph in fact detects lies, it does not, as there is no measurable physiological reaction to lying. The polygraph which measures blood pressure, pulse, respiration and skin conductivity has been deemed to be not a “scientifically credible test” to determine if someone is lying, and as a result it is not admissible in a criminal court of law in this country, or the United Sates. This was confirmed for Canadians by the Supreme Court of Canada in R vs. Beland.

The polygraph is flawed as a “scientific instrument”, but if employed as an interview aid it can be a more than effective tool. It has therefore been accepted as a test in the hiring of employees engaged in sensitive positions for a number of years; agencies such as the FBI, NSA, and the CIA. Canadian police recruiters are often having the polygraph as a test prior to entry. It is a $2 billion industry in the U.S., the average cost of the test being about $700.00. It has been rumoured, but so far I have not been able to confirm, that the RCMP is doing away with the polygraph test for applicants to the RCMP. It seems that the Mounties who are having trouble getting recruits and getting them through training, are doing away with the polygraph admission for the very reason that they were failing too many of their applicants. (If this turns out to be true, the ramifications of this would necessitate a more in-depth examination)

So despite a general acceptance of it as an aid in screening persons in the field of employment; there is still some mixed application of the polygraph in terms of future employees. The Ontario government for instance has banned the use of polygraphs by an employer. (One has to wonder whether this came about as a result of the Ford brothers who dabbled in a little crack cocaine while in office, but that would be a little too suspicious on my part.) The polygraph can also be prejudiced, according to scientific testing, against those that are innocent. Finally, there are clear ways to beat it. In the United States, from 1945 to the present six Americans were found guilty of having committed espionage– all six had previously passed polygraph examinations.

Regardless of the apparent flaws and leaving aside all the naysayers, here again is the proposal. What if a political party and each of its candidates, prior to election, came out and stated that all their party candidates would take the polygraph, and furthermore, it would be in an open and public forum, and they would even provide the questions that were the subject of that polygraph. Additionally they would promise to share those results with the clear assumption that the tests are done by a fully accredited and impartial body.

How many candidates would survive that polygraph test would be the first question. But assume they survive, clearly the pressure would undoubtedly then fall to the other parties and their candidates to also comply and prove their worthiness for public office.

For those not experienced in the use and application of the polygraph process. The actual test is only about fifteen minutes long, but there is a lengthy preamble between the tester and the tested. In the lead-up to the test the interviewer would review the test questions, in order to establish a control question and a probable lie test. This sets the boundaries for the tested and an agreement is reached on the testing questions and the boundaries around them. After going through this process, five or six basic questions are agreed to and formulated and the test is administered.

In this theoretical proposal, what would the basic questions look like:

a) Is everything in your campaign literature and advertisements accurate?

b) Have you ever been a member of an extreme right or extreme left organization?

c) Have you ever cheated on your taxes?

Anyways, you get the picture. It would seem at first blush to not be a bad idea. In the Middle Ages they would pour boiling water over people they suspected of lying, the thinking being that an honest person would be able to stand and take the burning. So a polygraph is at least better than that methinks.

It would be an entertaining drinking game to go down the list of all these “honest” politicians now plying their wares in government and be able to bet (or drink) on the subsequent outcome of the test. There are some politicians that simply ooze that crooked instinct and would be an easy bet with two to one odds, where others may have a fifty-fifty wager. And there are those of you out there that believe that no politician could take and pass the test. Maybe that is true, I am not so sure, it may be a little harsh.

Will any slate of candidates take on this challenge? It seems unlikely, given that it is easier to let sleeping dogs lay, no sense stirring the pot only to find yourself in a un-retractable position. In the 1950’s there was a show called Lie Detector TV which was hosted by Melvin Belli a famous defence counsel of that day. During his day Belli had won over $600 million in damages and defended Jack Ruby who had shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the killer of President Kennedy.

Maybe instead of an all candidates debate hosted by Rosie Barton lobbying softball questions, we could have the polygraph test results revealed. If the candidate failed they could get a chance to debate why they failed, or why the test came back as in-conclusive. We could find a host like the lawyer Marie Henien who could cross-exam them on their explanations. It would be binge-worthy television drama, maybe cringe-worthy would be a better description, but I think it would draw the ratings, and the CBC could finally find a replacement for “Schitt’s Creek”– we could call this “Up the Creek”.

I clearly digress, but maybe ask the question at the next all candidates meeting you attend as part of your civic duty, when each and every politician is expounding on how they are best to represent the people you say:

“Excuse me, Dear Sir or Madam, will you take a polygraph test when you say you will never raise taxes?”

I will volunteer to hook up the electrodes.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons and the Internet Archive Book Images – Some Rights Reserved

Lying…

In light of various recent events, it seems that the vagaries of lying in this 21st century seem worthy of a little exploration.

Often one thinks of lying as being a black and white issue. However, lying as everyone and everybody who has practised the art can tell you, it is inevitably shaded and nuanced. Even whether one finds un-truths offensive seems to be tempered by who is doing the lying; or what they are lying about.

We, at times, seem to be more accepting of certain types of lies. Institutional or professional lying seems too often to go unchallenged, acceptance of it becoming more the norm.

Personal lies seem less acceptable, although even the distinction between the two can get murky. Are we more content with institutional lying? We often shrug our shoulders succumbing to it being the way it is, something for which we have no power over. Whereas the more personal lie has a greater chance of offending.

At the bottom of the lying scale, (if we admit to there being a scale) are what our mothers and fathers used to call the “white” lies. A dictionary would call white lying often “trivial” or “mundane”. When one says that dinner was “lovely, when it in fact was un-edible, this is acceptable. This lie was designed to spare a persons feelings, it’s even what a decent person would do under these circumstances.

Hope Hicks, the former advisor to President Trump on media matters, admitted she told “white lies” during her course of duties. Well, of course that is not true, that was a bit of a lie. A lie about a lie if you will.

What Ms. Hicks was doing was actually in the next upper layer of lying– the lies that are being practised and utilized by our very governments.

Donald Trump lies on a daily basis, over and over again, seemingly with little negative repercussions–well at least for fifty percent of the American public. On the other hand, Richard Nixon was impeached for the single lie of denying recording conversations in the White House and using the FBI to go against his political enemies. Bill Clinton found out that lying about sex on public television, along with getting wife Hillary to swear to the lie, was less acceptable and he too was forced down that same impeachment road.

It will be interesting this week to see if the Judicial Committee in the U.S. feels that Mr. Trump leveraging of government resources for a political purpose and lying about it becomes an “impeachable offence”. Or have the times changed and are the offences of yesteryear not the same as those of today.

Our own Minister of Justice at the time, Jody Wilson-Raybould spoke about “her truth” when talking about her problems with Trudeau and his underlings. One could only translate this to mean that “my truth” may be different than “her truth”. If one believes that there is a single unassailable truth, then this kind of phrasing is difficult to even grasp and at the very least, it muddy’s the waters both in its intent and message. The specific terminology used forces the listener or reader to be attentive to the semantics.

Governmental lies from the police, whether it be the RCMP, or the Vancouver City Police or any other police department, is a little more difficult to discern. Much harder for the general public to know they are being lied to, or at the very least being misled, as the actual facts are often hidden behind the “Confidential” or “Secret” labelled files.

The “spinners” and the “strategic” media sections of the RCMP and other police departments are mandated to be the practitioners of the art of the semantic dodge. Almost inevitably, it is done from a defensive posture, designed and structured to avoid criticism, or quell further scrutiny. It quite often works. Although their repeated and practised lines often become worthless over time, made useless with their constant repetition.

How many times have you heard after the latest killing or shooting in a residential neighbourhood that the public “has no need to fear”. This was a “targeted” offence (by the way –aren’t all offences targeted?) In truth, you actually should be concerned about a shooting in your neighbourhood. There are many cases of mistaken identity shootings and there are plenty of gangland drive-by shootings which spray the neighbourhood. Gangsters indiscriminately shooting in their twisted fist fashion and doing their best Scarface imitations are in fact a real danger to the neighbourhood.

The police if pressed would justify these kinds of pronouncements as being designed to ease the neighbourhood anxiety; to make you feel that you are safe. So they would argue if honest that they are doing it for your own good.

We have been told many times over that marihuana is a benign enterprise, not one of the drugs which promote or lead to violence. Or that the legalization of marihuana will eliminate organized crime. Now that the government is in the marihuana business this lie has become the government seemingly acceptable truth. In reality hundreds have been killed over the years in the marihuana industry and even government is now admitting that they may never eliminate the criminal element.

When the police say that it is “still an active investigation”, chances are they are lying to you. It may not have a C.H. (Concluded Here) notation on the file, but in all probability, nobody is actively working on those files. They tell that to victims families on a regular basis and they get away with it– as only they know level of investigation on those protected files.

Where the institutional lying can become serious is when it turns personal for the police officers involved. It could even lead to criminal charges. Usually that happens when the accusation(s) creep into the courtrooms or some other public body of inquiry where truths surface that otherwise would have remained hidden from view.

Criminal defence counsel is always accusing the police of lying: “I put it to you officer…”. But let’s forget about that nonsensical game playing practised by those that defend the indefensible.

Instead, what we are talking about is lying when the singular motive seems or is designed to cover up; to promote or defend one’s integrity.

Lying as a police officer used to be fatal to a career. Different levels of accountability now seem to be at play, sometimes directly tied to how far one goes up the managerial ladder.

The accusation of “you’re lying” is big ugly phrase that reverberates off of those courtroom walls. So the most vulnerable to the accusation are logically, those that spend a great deal of their time in those courtrooms. Once again, the uniform officers, or the officer actively involved in criminal investigations are the most likely targets; accepted as fair game for lawyers, judges, and the media.

In the RCMP as in other police agencies, if you get past the rank of Corporal, you are much less likely to end up in that maelstrom known as the Canadian justice system, and therefore less susceptible to any threats to your credibility.

If you get to the lofty heights of Executive officers (Inspector and above in the RCMP) you have a greater chance of winning the lottery than appearing in a Provincial criminal court.

There are some current police officers, or former officers who may feel that this blogger is overstating the cases of officers lying, but consider the following:

In a Toronto Star article in 2012 titled: “Police who Lie: How Officers thwart justice with False Testimony” authors David Bruser and Jesse McLean reported on over 100 cases across Canada where perjury had surfaced as an allegation in a courtroom.

The authors of this study, found that the usual reason given for raising possible falsehoods was to change what may happen if the truth were discovered. They also discovered that the greater the stakes, the greater the chance of someone perjuring themselves. These conclusions seem obvious.

What prompted this somewhat meandering blog about lying was a recent case in Lloydminster, Alberta which is an RCMP detachment of about 34 uniform officers.

This case started with a female civilian officer of the local Detachment, who was in a managerial position, having an affair (which she initially denied) with the local RCMP dog handler. At one point there was an ugly confrontation between the dog handler’s wife and the mistress at the house of the dog handler. (You know already that this story is not destined to end well.)

The head of the Detachment at the time was Inspector Suki Manj. Manj was married to Corporal Tammy Hollingsworth, who was also working at the Lloyminster detachment. (This too is not a good thing in a relatively small detachment where conflict of interest implications are bound to surface)

Both Hollingsworth and Manj apparently were good “friends” of the now aggrieved dog handlers wife. Both also considered themselves friends with the female civilian manager.

Inspector Manj questioned the civilian member, who quickly turned on Manj and accused him of “ruining her reputation” by “asking questions”. She complained to Manj’s bosses, who promptly told Manj “to back off”, that if they were having an affair it was none of his business. Manj clearly felt that it was his business, felt that the affair was “inappropriate” and “unbecoming” and therefore justified his questioning of the involved female.

Manj was charged for the misconduct, a total of 16 allegations were brought against him for the period of 2014 to 2016. These 16 were eventually dropped to four. One of the allegations being that Manj “didn’t provide a complete and accurate account of what happened”.

His spouse Corporal Tammy Hollingsworth was also charged with multiple offenses which seemed to amount to her getting a little too involved in the matter, trying to find out details, and that she failed to be diligent in protecting her “friend” from domestic assault.

The civilian female went off on stress leave. She also participated in the sexual harassment suit that was playing out in Ottawa. When she was initially questioned by Manj she denied having an affair; something which in the end she admitted to.

Both Manj and Hollingsworth were suspended “with pay”in 2017 and eventually both were transferred back to British Columbia.

Hollingsworth ended up being cleared by in a hearing held by Kevin L. Harrison in September 2018.

Inspector Manj went before a five day tribunal in Richmond, British Columbia which was presided over by Gerry Annetts (also a former police officer). Testifying at this tribunal for upper management were Manj’s former bosses Chief Supt. Shahin Mehdizadeh and Chief Supt. Wendell Reimer.

Annetts went on to call the evidence of Mehdizadeh and Reimer as “unreliable”. In other words, he did not believe either one of them.

He then went further in talking about another RCMP witness; Staff Sgt. Sarah Nelson. He described her evidence as, “some of the most biased, leading, unreliable statements I have ever seen”. He didn’t believe her either.

Needless to say, all charges were dropped against Manj.

Cpl Hollingsworth has now launched a civil suit alleging “malicious prosecution” and has stated that she suffered “emotional and psychological harm” by her bosses. It is unsure as to whether Inspector Manj will follow suit.

The RCMP have wisely decided that now would not be the time to comment further.

Let’s summarize. An affair, led to a lie about that affair, which led to two separate public hearings, where a S/Sgt, a Superintendent and a Chief Superintendent all were accused of being “unreliable” (the nicer spin on lying).

Two officers who were both also in a bit of a conflict of interest position, have been sitting at home since 2017 gathering pay cheques, and one of those officers is now launching a civil suit for further compensation for the harm that has been caused.

The person who started all this and originally lied about the affair is also sitting at home on a managerial salary, also on stress leave.

It would probably be fair to say that the taxpayers of Lloydminster probably deserved better.

A note of caution. Maybe these officers don’t deserve these comments by the acting arbitrators, but that would in turn mean that Cpl Hollingsworth and Inspector Manj could have been lying.

It looked like all problems were about to be solved concerning this nasty lying problem when this blogger discovered that the RCMP in Ottawa have a Truth Verification Section.

Only the Federal government could come up with this title, but when we explored further, it was realized that this is for most part only the polygraph section that they are referring to– so as it turns out, even the title of this section seems to be stretching our credibility a bit.

Where does this leave us all during this time of lies, counter-lies, sanctioned lies, and our parents white lies? It is hard to be sure.

George Orwell warned us when he said, “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act”.

We may be in need of a revolution.

Photo courtesy of Ninian Reid via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved