Monday, March 11, 2013

Coopertown Chief Polygraphing Potential Police

Posted by on Mon, Mar 11, 2013 at 5:00 AM

Coopertown, Tenn. is known for three things: being the final resting place of one of Timothy Demonbreun's kids; being home to a house with what I would estimate to be a billion cats that sit out in the yard and stare at you in a really creepy manner if you're in the Coopertown Cemetery — and being responsible for a notorious speed trap out on I-24.

In recent months, they've lost their speed trap due to losing all their police officers. They lost their only full-time officer after a road-rage incident and they had to fire their reserve officer after he got caught on his own dashboard cam being racist to a black motorist. After this incident, their police chief quit.

Now they've got themselves a new police chief and he's adding an interesting twist to the application process for potential new cops. According to the AP's Sheila Burke, he's using a polygraph to try to keep racists off the force:

The new chief intends for his lie detector idea to help clean up Coopertown's image. Candidates are required to answer whether they have ever committed a hate crime or a race-based crime.

"It doesn't ask if you've ever made a racist remark or slur," the chief said. Nor does the test ask people if they are prejudiced against any ethnic or religious minority.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I've certainly known enough people who will say in all sincerity, "I'm not a racist, but ..." and then go on to say something exceptionally racist. If they genuinely believe they're not racist, I'm not sure how a polygraph helps. On the other hand, good for the new chief for trying something, especially to reassure his constituents that he's addressing the problem. And it seems like it might be doing some good:

And [Chief Sullivan] believes the policy is working, because he says it's already discouraged some applicants. "I've told a couple of ones about the polygraph who have not called me back."

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