Police Chief Uses Polygraph Test to Weed Out Racist Applicants

Shane Sullivan of Coopertown, Tennessee, wants to revamp department with racist past.

Posted: 03/08/2013 12:30 PM EST

Shane Sullivan, Coopertown, Tennessee's newest police chief, is looking to revamp the small town's police department that has been plagued by racist activity. He is requiring all applicants to take a polygraph test to determine if they are racist.  

He is the department's 11th police chief in as many years. The last police chief of the town, located 30 miles from Nashville, stepped down after the media brought attention to a white volunteer officer who used a racial slur towards a Black motorist.

Coopertown is 94.58 percent white and 2.22 percent Black, according to U.S. Census data.

The Associated Press reports

Law enforcement experts say Sullivan's polygraph approach is unusual, though some departments use the devices for other purposes during the application process. Others try to root out bias in other ways. One polygraph expert warned that lie detectors can't accurately predict racism for reasons that include people's inability to recognize their own racism.

Sullivan said he doubts racists will even apply for the force if they know about the tests.

"I think the polygraph will definitely keep these people from applying," the 39-year-old chief said.

And he 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."

Since being hired in November 2012, he has taken the test and has hired two officers who met the test requirement.

Read full story here


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(photo: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

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