Local Sheriff’s Department Adds Polygraph To Its Arsenal

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BELTON (May 9, 2013)--For the past month, the Bell County Sheriff’s department has been fighting to join the 21st century.

Decisions from past administrations have left Bell County Sheriff Deputies with outdated equipment.

Newly elected Sheriff Eddy Lange told News 10 last April that only 6 patrol cars have been purchased for the department in the past two years, when in hindsight they needed almost 30.

Lange also mentioned that the Bell County Sheriff's Department might be one of the few sheriffs’ offices in Texas that doesn't have a dash camera in any patrol car.

Not to mention, Lange pointed out that nearly all deputies in the department have outdated body armor.

But all of that swiftly changed after Lange ordered nine new patrol cars for the department, equipped with dash cameras, upgraded radar, and computer equipment. Lange also ordered new body armor for all deputies as well.

But the department made a particularly interesting buy at the end of April, a state of the art polygraph machine. The machine is housed inside the department’s new special crimes unit.

It’s a familiar device for Michele Cianci, the head of the special crimes unit. She was a polygraph examiner during her 22-year career with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Cianci says the polygraph is a good way to pinpoint and weed out criminal suspects from an investigation.

“This is a marvelous tool that will help us narrow our leads,” Cianci said.

“If we have an investigator whittle down their suspects in a criminal case to one or two people, then we will probably polygraph those individuals.”

By law, you can refuse to take a polygraph exam, but Cianci says many suspects agree to take one to try and clear their name anyway.

The exam’s outcome cannot be grounds for an arrest, but the information gathered during the exam may make the difference in advancing an investigation.

Cianci says suspects will sometimes even confess to a crime strapped into the chair before they take the exam.

"What we have found is that people who have committed these crimes, want to really tell someone,” Cianci says.

Because of this, Cianci gives a pre-test to the exam, or an acquaintance test.

The suspect in the chair is asked to pick a number from 1 to 7, and is then asked to deliberately lie when the examiner asks which number they picked.

"I look at my charts and can see the reaction they have when they lie to me about that number," Cianci said.

"So let’s say someone picks the number 3, and I reveal that I know that based on their polygraph charts,” she continued.

“The individual is then shocked and says ‘hey she knows I wrote that, how does she know that?’"

What happens next is what Cianci calls “a job well done.”

"When they see the results of that acquaintance test, many people just confess and say ‘I did it’, and they don't sit in the chair any longer," Cianci said.

Law enforcement agencies across Bell County will be able to utilize the polygraph machine free of charge since it belongs to the sheriff’s department.

This could save police agencies from using a private examiner, which can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000.

"When Sheriff Lange approved to allow this service, it just made me very happy that I could be a part of a milestone like this," Cianci said.