Many in the community are applauding the new chief for his unusual hiring practices.
Shane Sullivan was hired to be the new Police Chief of Coopertown, Tennesee, in November in the hopes that he would be able to rebuild the force after a series of police scandals left the town with no police at all for several months. Accusations of racism, sexism, and racial profiling along with one of the country’s most notorious speed traps not only left the force decimated but has also left the entire town with a horrible reputation. The local community is fed up as well. One lifelong resident told the Associated Press, “It’s put a black eye on the city … Other than writing speeding tickets, they don’t do anything for us.” Chief Sullivan is hoping to change this however, and one way he is doing that is by having applicants take a polygraph test in an attempt to determine if an applicant is racist, along with the routine application procedures.
Although it has become more common for departments to use polygraph tests in the application process, it is “unusual” for a department to use them to determine if a potential hire is racist. In fact, a polygraph expert warns that “lie detectors can’t accurately predict racism for reasons that include people’s inability to recognize their own racism.” However, Chief Sullivan thinks knowing about the test will keep people who are racist from even applying. He said, “I think the polygraph will definitely keep these people from applying … I’ve told a couple of ones about the polygraph who have not called me back.” Applicants are asked if the have “ever committed a hate crime or a race-based crime,” but the chief did say, “It doesn’t ask if you’ve ever made a racist remark or slur.” It also does not inquire as to whether a candidate is “prejudiced against any ethnic or religious minority.” Chief Sullivan is also using background checks to screen applicants, and he has hired two new officers who passed both the background and polygraph checks.
Photo: AP/Mark Humphrey