Halifax Regional Council kicks off polygraph

For the first time in 46 years, new recruits to the Halifax Regional Police will be able to skip the polygraph test later this year.

On Tuesday, Halifax Regional Council voted to remove polygraphs as part of the selection process for police officers and HRP support positions that would involve staff or contracted individuals with access to sensitive information.

Dan Kinsella, head of HRP, said the polygraph has always been just a tool in the box of the screening process and they will need transition time to move people around and develop a new system. He said it will probably be September before it’s all over.

“It is essential that our pre-employment screening methods are thorough and efficient and we must ensure the highest standards of honesty and integrity. The polygraph is one of them,” he said.

“We need a replacement mechanism for the polygraph and it will be a series of interviews and checks with family and friends and that sort of thing.”

Several advisers weren’t thrilled with the shift, and Kinsella said it’s possible the schedule could be brought forward for some positions. But, he said, HRP needs to conduct a thorough review of each position, determine the access required by each, and develop an appropriate screening process.

Do no harm

Deputy Mayor Pam Lovelace (Hammonds Plain – St. Margarets) said she wanted assurances that the selection process will not harm individuals. She cited an example where a newcomer applied for a guard job and because of the polygraph he was charged. And although the charges were later dropped, it did a lot of harm. It was highlighted in a website article last year.

“We don’t want to place people in these positions in the future,” Kinsella responded, adding that HRP also requires a rigorous screening program.

“We are changing a process that has been culturally embedded in this organization and in this municipality since 1976,” he said. “We just have to make sure that the process we put in place, and it will be, at least as responsive to the needs of the organization as the polygraph while we treat people with respect and dignity, while we give them that opportunity power to show their best side and meet the needs of background checks.

When Lovelace asked if Kinsella was also rethinking the use of polygraphs in criminal investigations, he said the two applications were entirely different and would require a different conversation.

“Currently this is still in use and I don’t want to go overboard with the deployment aspects as some of it is sensitive, but we are currently continuing to use it,” he said.

Elna M. Lemons