Law experts: new police recruits must be tested for racism

One test that is being explored is the polygraph test, also known as a lie detector test.

Police officers stand guard as protesters gather in front of the 120th NYPD precinct on the sixth anniversary of Eric Garner’s death in Tompkinsville, Staten Island on July 17, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

In an effort to prevent police brutality and systemic racism, some law enforcement officials and experts are saying that newer police officers should be tested for racism.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers kickstarted the discussion, and a racism screening for police applicants is a preliminary result of said discussions.

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One test that is being explored is a polygraph test, also known as a lie detector test. Reuters reported that a police-specific polygraph test is being created by retired FBI agent, James Stern, in order to detect racist tendencies.

“Do you discriminate against people of color,” and “have you ever committed an act of violence against someone based on their ethnicity,” are some of the questions that may be asked according to Stern.

The former agent believes the test is a simple way to weed out recruits who have biases that are not always immediately exposed.

“Anyone who is a racist or anti other groups, or who has the propensity to violate civil rights — not all of them are overt,” said Stern. “A specific-issue polygraph examination would wash out a lot of those people.”

Another suggestion is a stress test to determine which applicants might use excessive force, especially against Black people.

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As of now, the current standards for screening new recruits starts with written exams, and, if the state they’re in allows it, a general polygraph test. Police recruiting is not held to any federal standard.

It is worth noting that there is no guaranteed way of spotting potential officers’ biases, Reuters reported.

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