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Thursday, October 2, 2008

More from the FBI Citizen's Academy

Last night, I attended week three of the FBI Citizen’s Academy and had the chance to observe two demonstrations.

Polygraph – This was the first time I’ve seen a polygraph demonstration and, while it was interesting, the demo was not as interesting as the briefing. Like most, I equate polygraph with lie detector but the goal isn’t to prove someone a liar (except on Maury Povich.) Rather, the test is a resource management tool. The example used in the briefing was money missing from a bank with three employees having access. A polygraph cannot definitely prove who took the money, but it can tell you who is nervous when questioned so that the agents can focus their time on that person.

It was also interesting to learn about the testing process. I would assume that you’d walk in, get hooked up to the system, and answer predetermined questions but this isn’t the case at all. The examiner discusses the process with the person being tested and develops the questions with their input. This seems to defy logic since having pretest knowledge of the questions should give a good liar a chance to prepare, shouldn’t it? (No.) The test is performed three times, with the questions asked in different orders, so a good liar would have the chance to practice – if it was possible to control breathing, galvanic skin response (sweating), and blood pressure.

The examiner is trained to observe the test subject during the pretest and, based upon observation, hone the questioning so that the test is as accurate as possible. For example, if the question is “have you ever committed a robbery,” a victim of an armed robbery might have the same physical response as someone who is lying. To be accurate, the examiner would need to ask the question in such a way that acknowledges that experience.

F.A.T.S. Firearm Training System – This is that cool video game system with which agents role play stressful situations and it was cool but, again, the briefing was most interesting.

The briefing was given by the division counsel and it was clear that firearms training is legal training. A cynic might suggest that this training is an effort to teach law enforcement how far they can go without getting in trouble (and I can be cynical from time to time) but I don’t think that’s the case. It’s clear that the many agents I’ve had the chance to meet have a sincere respect for law and order. This legal training is an effort to work within the laws that they’ve committed to protecting since not doing so would destroy the public trust they need to accomplish their goals. In other words, I think this training is done with a sincere respect for law and not with a fear of being held accountable. It welcomes accountability.

I was also fascinated by the fact that the use of deadly force is a search and seizure issue. The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable search and seizure. The use of deadly force is the ultimate seizure and the concept of “reasonable” is central to the legal issues surround it.

3 comments:

Beth C. said...

Andy, I heard a story this week that was related to deadly force. A man was running away from police so they used a taser on him. He died because he had an underlying medical condition (an enlarged heart). The investigation determined that the police were not at fault because he had this unknown medical conditon. That dosen't seem right. Can the police use force as they see fit regardless of the possibility that some people (with medical conditions) may die unintentionally as a result of their action? Dosen't really seem like "reasonable" search and seizure if it might kill you.

Andy Egizi, Program Coordinator said...

The concept of 'reasonable' is not attributed to you or me but to a law enforcement officer in that stressful uncertain situation. If the runner was a jay walker, it's probably not reasonable to taser them but if he was a drug dealer it might be reasonable.

Based upon my briefing, a taser would be considered an instrument capable of deadly force as would a club or a fist. One of the training modules we watched was a young woman being arrested for fraud. She turned out to be a blackbelt, beat up the on-screen partner, and turned in a fighting stance to my civilian peer who was holding the test weapon. He paused for a second and she came at him with a kick, disarmed him, and shot him with his own gun.

Legally, as soon as she turned to him in a fighting stance, he could have used his weapon. I asked if this would be an instance in which restraint would be required - so maybe you shoot 5 times if she has a gun but not if she just wants to fight.

The sobering response was, "we're not required to fight fair."

Whoever is on the other end of the gun or taser has the opportunity to surrender control. If they don't, the control can shift in a moment. Force is allowed to gain control.

The Girl Kind of Shawn said...

What an interesting post. I always wondered how those worked. And I always thought too, that it was up to the interpretation of the person running the machine. It makes more sense to me now that I know it's only a tool to give detectives focus.

So, I guess the polygraph on Maury's show must be extra special if it can tell a lie from the truth.