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APD to outsource polygraphing services

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque Police Department will soon hand over its lie-detecting duties to a private company, part of an effort to increase the number of officers in the field and to prevent even the perception of partiality for the unit that determines whether prospective police officers are telling the truth, according to the APD commander in charge of the polygraph unit.

Commander Kevin Rowe, in his new role in charge of APD’s recruiting, Internal Affairs and the polygraph unit, said the outsourcing will free up the two officers in the polygraph unit to work in the field, where they are “desperately needed.” He added that a private company will “further ensure the fair and unbiased screening of applicants.”

Rowe could not say how much moving the unit to a private company will cost taxpayers, saying that the company has not yet been selected. He did say that APD is considering using a local polygraphing company currently employed by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office. A BCSO spokesman said the office pays around $200 per polygraph test and paid less than $8,000 for the service in fiscal year 2014, though BCSO has fewer applicants and deputies than APD.

The polygraph test is among the final stages of the Albuquerque police academy, and all applicants who make it that far are screened to make sure they didn’t lie about past drug use, criminal history and other topics they were asked about earlier in the training.

Rowe also could not provide an estimate of how much it has cost so far to outfit the existing unit, which needs the taxpayer-funded certification of the polygraphers, in addition to polygraphing machines and associated equipment.

“They’re not cheap. I’ll say that,” he said.

The outsourcing of the unit comes amid an officer shortage at APD and increased scrutiny about how the department selects, trains and screens applicants before they get a badge and a gun. A little more than 900 officers are on the force, though the city budgets for around 1,100.

The Department of Justice last month wrapped up a 16-month investigation that concluded APD has a “pattern or practice” of violating Albuquerque residents’ constitutional rights. The federal department sharply criticized APD’s use of force and training at the end of its investigation.