The Investigators: Are rape victims exempt from polygraph tests?

The Investigators: Are rape victims exempt from polygraph tests?

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement sent a letter to nearly 300 law enforcement agencies across the state on Wednesday after Monday morning's heated Senate hearing meeting of the Women and Children Committee.

"There are officers conducting polygraph tests illegally in Louisiana," said Karen Carter Peterson, chair of the Women and Children Committee.

Information surfaced at the hearing that the Denham Springs Police Department sometimes gives polygraph or "lie detector" tests to rape victims. Peterson said by doing so, Denham Springs was violating state and federal laws. When Executive Director Joey Watson of the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement could not answer how to stop it, Peterson wanted him gone.

"If that's happening, we need to put a stop to it," Watson said.

"How do we do that?" Peterson asked.

"I don't know," Watson replied.

"You don't know how to put a stop to it?" Peterson questioned.

"I don't know how we put a stop to it," Watson reiterated.

"You are not the right person to lead this agency. I've just decided that," Peterson stated.

Following the hearing, Gov. Bobby Jindal issued an executive order to protect sexual assault victims. On Wednesday, the LCLE sent a letter to hundreds of law enforcement agencies that receive federal funding for sexual assault victims.

"Reports indicate that, in some areas of the state, victims of sexual assault have been subjected to requirements that are in direct violation of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (STOP VAWA and SASP), and, the Office for Victims of Crime (VOCA CVA and CVR) Federal Programs. Some victims have been billed for the medical costs of forensic examinations (rape kits and other charges related to the examinations), refused assistance if their assault was not reported to law enforcement officials, and subjected to a polygraph test in violation of state law. R.S. 15:541"

"Basically, the letter says please review the governor's order. Please understand that we're going to become much more aggressive in our enforcement," Watson explained.

The state law does not say rape victims will never have to take a polygraph test. Instead, it's a tool that's meant to be used on a case-by-case basis. Richie Johnson, the chair of the Louisiana Polygraph Board, said based on the way the state law is written, departments can use the test but cannot deny someone an investigation if they fail the test or refuse to take it.

"We're talking about cases where someone falsifies a report against a person and is later determined that that's exactly what occurred," Johnson said. "It was falsified. It's one tool in an arsenal of tools that we have. Why would we not use it if needed?"

All agencies receiving the letter must respond by November 5 acknowledging the requirements.

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