By Joel Warner
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By Alan Prendergast
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"Coming from a scientific and academic background, I never thought I'd get involved with the people I have in the polygraph industry," says Raskin. "There are some good people out there, but for the most part, I've never seen such a collection of operators, con artists and B.S.ers of the highest aptitude in any other profession. From the FBI and the NSA on down to the independent examiners, the whole industry seems to attract a collection of circus barkers."
CAPE president Charles "Chuck" Rode doesn't think the profession is as scummy as Raskin says it is, but he admits that without state oversight, it's a free-for-all.
Sitting in a borrowed office at the polygraph firm of Alverson & Associates, located upstairs from a barber shop just off of Federal Boulevard, Rode wears a pair of dark aviator sunglasses even though the lights are off. "I could teach you how to run the instrument, mechanically, in thirty minutes," says Rode. "But that wouldn't make you a polygraph examiner.
"Still, you could put out an ad in the Yellow Pages and you'd be in business. We don't cast aspersions upon a polygraph examiner just because they're not a member of CAPE, but if you're not a member of any trade group, then you don't have to maintain any ethical guidelines or conduct regulations. We look at membership in CAPE or the APA as like a doctor being a member of the American Medical Association. It's good business."
Some professional examiners have less faith in CAPE's ability to regulate the local industry.
"Several people pulled out [of CAPE] because the old-time examiners wanted to be grandfathered in. They didn't want to have to be recertified or be reviewed in order to prove their competency," Grant says. But CAPE has "done a lot to regroup and push for standardization," so he and the two other polygraphers he works with at the DA's office are reapplying for membership. "But really," he says, "CAPE is just an organization."
When Rode talks about the professional conduct of his fellow examiners, his backup is a wall covered with yellowing certificates. He points at them to emphasize the integrity of CAPE members, some of whom are working outside the office's closed door.
Each office at Alverson & Associates has an examination chair and a desk. Some rooms have the newest digital polygraph instruments, with body-function sensors leading into boxes that look like radar detectors; a single wire connects the boxes to a computer. Other rooms have old-school equipment, which scratches out polygraph charts on graph paper in four different colors of ink. One room has a closed-circuit camera hanging in a corner like a cobweb. The camera points at the examination chair and relays the video to a monitor hidden a few steps away in a converted closet.
If this office represents the search for truth, the truth comes cheaply furnished. But since getting someone to believe you're telling the truth has always been a valuable commodity, Rode is concerned about people who are willing to sell it unethically.
"I'm only aware of a couple examiners here in Colorado who I feel are not qualified," says Rode, but, he adds, "the potential for disaster" is out there. "Conceivably, the biggest negative impact is if a private person looks in the Yellow Pages and picks a guy and isn't going to know enough to ask the right questions to find out if he knows what he's doing. Anyone can say he did tests for the U.S. Department of the Treasury and be lying through his teeth. They can say anything they want in order to sell you.
"Now, if I do this as a member of the APA and CAPE, I could get bounced. But an unscrupulous person out to make money can operate without oversight."
He demonstrates by pulling out a local phone book and looking up "Polygraph and Lie Detection." There are three entries. One is Alverson & Associates; the two others are Colorado Computerized Polygraph and Gene Parker Computerized Polygraph.
"See," says Rode, "this guy Gene Parker isn't even a member of CAPE or the APA."
Gene Parker isn't popular with the examiners of Alverson & Associates. When Rode asks a grim-faced examiner if he'd like to comment on Parker, the examiner shakes his head slowly as if Parker alone is bringing the whole profession to its knees.
"As far as I know," says Rode, "Parker never even graduated from the Rocky Mountain Security Institute."
But, of course, that's difficult to find out for sure, since the school has been out of business for years.
You'll just have to trust him.
Gene Parker doesn't look like a menace to the polygraph industry. If you take away the .25 automatic he wears concealed in a hip holster and the bulletproof Cadillac he drives, Parker comes across like a spry, mischievous grandfather. He has a tendency to toss the word "hi" into the middle of his sentences, as if he's reintroducing himself to you every couple of minutes. When it comes to the business of lie detection, Parker seems as knowledgeable as anyone.