Government’s decision to press ahead with implementing polygraph testing at the island’s ports of entry to help stem the flow of illegal weapons is getting the thumbs up from a US-based special agent, who is assuring Customs and other border control workers there is nothing to fear.
Trebor Randle, Special Agent-in-charge of the Atlanta Office of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, told Barbados TODAY it could serve as a useful tool in helping Barbados and the rest of the region bring an end to the importation of illegal weapons.
Polygraph testing and computer voice stress analysers are used by law enforcement in some parts of the world.
“The Caribbean should not shy away from the use of polygraphs. It is a very valuable tool,” said Randle.
“We use it in the most serious of investigations and oftentimes, we find that the examiner of the polygraph is able to solicit much information prior to administering the test because that individual knows what’s coming up next and a lot of times they divulge information before they are even tested. So, it is a psychological tool as well,” she explained.
“When it comes to polygraph and polygraph examinations, commonly known as the lie detector test, it is a tool that we use in my agency and we use throughout the United States in several agencies. It is just a tool to help us determine if a person is being deceptive or not, but it is a very valuable and accurate tool.”
During a press conference last month, Prime Minister Mia Mottley acknowledged that there was “a state of lack of security at the ports” when her administration came to office in May 2018.
While indicating that in addition to the national plan of action a hemispheric approach was needed to stop guns coming into the Caribbean, Mottley told reporters “that is why the truth verification at the ports, I am deeply upset that it is taking as long as it has to do it”.
“I have spoken internally about it. Everybody who works in a sensitive position has to make up their mind that they have to be subject to different types of rules and conditions than those who don’t work in those sensitive positions. That is what it is. To whom much is given much is expected,” she said.
From as far back as 2017, then Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite underscored the need for “integrity testing”, especially among those in sensitive positions within border security agencies.
Over the years, however, labour union representatives have been cautious about this approach, with recent reports indicating that the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) was concerned that Customs officers could be “singled out to be subjected to lie detector tests” even though disciplinary procedures for all public officers are already in place.
Randle, a special agent of 27 years who is leading a one-week gang investigations training here for law enforcement and probation officials, insisted that polygraph testing was an effective tool that should be welcomed and should be accompanied by tighter laws.
“As with anything else, systems like that can be defeated but we know that criminals don’t always tell us the truth. We know that sometimes witnesses and citizens won’t be forthcoming and when we talk about fighting this war on guns and drugs and things of that nature, it is a really good tool when you are trying to get information to be able to polygraph an individual and determine deception,” she said.
“We talk about gun trafficking. We know that the guns are coming into the Caribbean from outside sources. Well, there are people who provide that cover to be able to funnel those guns in. So, it is all about creating policies and laws.
“That’s what would help on a larger scale – for those officials in power to recognise there is a problem throughout the Caribbean and not just Jamaica. We hear about Jamaica a lot, but some of our areas like beautiful Barbados here we have recognised there is a gang problem and they are controlling certain segments of the community,” Randle added.
Of the 40 murders recorded in Barbados so far this year, about 30 were committed using guns.