(This transcript is auto-generated. There may be errors.)
Warning this episode contains what some people may consider profanity and graphic descriptions of certain crimes, including crimes of a sexual nature. Please be advised,
Trembling. I pulled the car into the parking lot in front of the police station. My hands fumble nervously. As I turn off the car and take the keys out, the engine dies down and I sit in complete silence. So, This is my last chance. It’s not too late. I can still turn back. I say to myself, sweating with my pulse quickening.
I pick up the booklet I brought on the passenger seat next to me and flip through. Its 27 pages of questions that ask about my criminal history, including. Theft, sexual crimes, drug sales, drug use, traffic violations, employment information, and a very detailed health history including a list of prescription drugs I’m using, have used or have ever abused.
A police officer gave me this booklet a few weeks ago and told me to fill in all the blanks and think long and hard about my answers because I had to certify that they were all true, correct, and complete. And that I would have absolutely no promise of immunity for anything I said or admitted to. That means whatever I’m about to say can be used against me in a court of law.
In other words, everything I’m about to tell the police and everything in this booklet is essentially a voluntary confession, a statement of all the crimes I’ve committed or potentially committed, and I’m welcoming them to investigate my entire life history. I don’t have to do this. If I go through with this and they find out I’ve committed a crime, they can arrest me, but if I leave now they can’t.
I think hard about this choice. If I do get arrested, that’s going to be a serious problem, especially because my wife is out of town for the weekend with a friend attending a dance festival. My younger brother who is visiting me from out of state has been helping me complete some major home improvement projects, including chopping down some large dead aspen trees in my front yard, and that’s where I left him about an hour ago.
When I got in my car to drive down here, my mind reels at how absurd this whole situation is. My wife still out of town, is scheduled to come home sometime later this afternoon. I don’t know when. My brother is the only adult at the house since I asked him to stay home and keep an eye on our five kids. I keep imagining a worst case scenario where on this quiet Sunday afternoon, my wife will come home and see my brother standing in front of our house holding a chainsaw, and there will be cop cars in our driveway.
Where’s Ron? She’s going to ask, the police officers will tell her he’s not here, ma’am, he’s in jail. Wait, what? Why? How? She’s gonna ask terrified and utterly confused. Surely that’s how this is all gonna go down. And the worst part is I never even told her I was gonna be taking a polygraph in the first place.
She had no idea. I left the house to go to the police station. She thought I was at home chopping down trees. This is such a bad idea. I muse, but it’s too late now. If I back out this late in the process, the police will start to get suspicious and think I’m hiding something. I close my eyes and say a silent prayer one last time.
Then I get out of the car and start walking toward the police station. I am completely unsure of what will happen next, except that I know this is going to be bad.
Okay, so let me rewind. You may be wondering how and why I found myself driving voluntarily to a police station downtown and signing up to take a lie detector or polygraph test on a random Sunday afternoon. The reason is far simpler than it sounds. I’m a big fan of volunteering and participating where I can to help make the communities I live in a better place.
I’m also a big fan of learning exactly who it is that does all the hard work behind the scenes in a community that most people don’t really think about on a daily basis. So when I was working in downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado and got to see firsthand how crime theft, drug use, panhandling, and homelessness were affecting not just our city in a big way, but also the office building where I worked, I wondered what the root cause of it all was.
Why were there so many people sleeping under bridges and who enforces the law in such a seemingly lawless environment that one time someone took a huge rock and smashed out our glass window to steal a computer? Who is it that follows up on crimes like that? Or even better, how can we prevent crimes like that from happening in the first place?
The city had recently announced that they were going to install several surveillance cameras all over downtown to watch for crimes in progress and provide video footage to follow up on crimes committed after the fact. They claimed to be especially concerned with the threat of drug deals going down in the park that had a playground right in the heart of downtown.
So I reached out to the city to find out how I could help or get involved somehow. How could I make my neighborhood a better place? I was told about a program designed for people just like me, so, A police department, citizens Academy, where interested citizens like myself could learn more about how the police department works, who’s in charge, and what the needs in our community are.
This was extremely interesting to me. I signed up for it right away, and I must say the Citizens Academy was everything I had hoped for and more. I got to meet our local bomb squad, the Tactical Enforcement Unit, basically a SWAT team, the dogs in the canine unit, the folks who run the fingerprinting lab.
The officers who specialize in dealing with drunk drivers and a whole lot more. The program was 11 weeks long and was fascinating eye-opening and even fun. One evening I was locked in a padded cell where people who are arrested for drunk driving are put if they become violent. I got to hold a sniper rifle, an actual sniper rifle that had been used to kill a madman who was holding up hostages in a medical facility just a few months earlier.
When the program was over, the police chief told us that if we wanted to get involved in helping make our community even better and safer, we could join the CAPS program caps. C A P S stands for Community Advancing Public Safety, and it’s a civilian volunteer group that assists both the police department and fire department in public outreach and performing critical duties where the department is short on manpower.
So of course, I jumped at the chance. Why not? It was the next logical step. I had a great time learning about the police department in the Citizens Academy, and I cared about helping out with public safety wherever I could. I wanted to help the people who helped make my city a better place. I carefully looked over the list of openings they had for volunteers and was told I should see if any of the positions they had caught my eye.
None of them really did except one monitoring the surveillance cameras downtown. Bingo. That made perfect sense. That was literally the thing that had piqued my interest in the police department in the first place. This was something relevant to me, my work and the crimes that were happening in front of or around my office.
So I applied for that. I felt like I would be a good fit. I had already gone through the Citizens Academy, so the police department already knew who I was. I had already undergone a background check. I was already familiar with the inner workings of the department, and this was an aspect of law enforcement and community policing that affected me directly.
So I filled out a CAPS application and started taking the next steps, which included passing another background check, getting fingerprinted, completing a phone interview, and completing another in-person interview. When I had gotten most of the way through the process, the volunteer coordinator told me one day, Oh, you know what?
We don’t actually need anybody for the downtown cameras, but we do have an opening in financial crimes. Are you interested in that? No, I wasn’t interested in that. That sounded boring. And I said so. Well, she said, you’re this far through the process. Why don’t you just apply for that opening anyway, so you can get approved as a volunteer and you can try it out.
And if you don’t like it, maybe you can switch to the thing you wanna do later. Okay, that sounded reasonable. Pass all the tests so I can take my pick of whatever position they have when they open up. Sure. I said yes. I finished the application process and the interview and that’s when sheep dropped the bomb.
Oh, by the way, for the financial crimes role, you’re gonna need to take a polygraph exam. When I heard that, I felt my stomach slide all the way down my abdomen, down through my pant legs and ooze onto the floor. I was instantly sick. But what could I do now? I felt stuck. If I said I didn’t want to go through with it, it would’ve seemed like I wasn’t serious or I had just been wasting their time.
Worse. My mind started to wander and I thought, if I refuse now, maybe they’ll start to think I was trying to gain access to the police department for nefarious reasons, or that I have something to hide. I wondered if this was their way of secretly catching criminals. Luring them in with the promise of gaining access to the secret, confidential inner workings of a police department.
Then surprise, make them take a polygraph and confess to their crimes. What a brilliant idea. But now, I was panicking at the last minute because I found out there was a polygraph test involved. To back out now would seem extremely suspicious, or at least that’s how I felt. So I agreed to go through with it.
And then I went home in terror and panicked.
All right. Now let’s talk about polygraphs for a moment. This whole thing is so crazy. Here we are. In the 21st century, on the verge of a new technological revolution with artificial intelligence, machine learning, drones and other extremely sophisticated technologies, and our local law enforcement agency, the people we pay tax dollars to in order to catch criminals and lock them up are using a polygraph.
What? That fake, old-fashioned, outdated, pseudo-scientific, unreliable, quack technology where an officer hooks your body up to cords and wires and asks you embarrassing questions, trying to make you sweat and crack under pressure. I shut it at the thought. Now, here’s a little history lesson for those who aren’t aware.
Polygraphs or so-called lie detector tests were created in the 1920s ostensibly for the purpose of detecting when someone is telling a lie. But this is a pretend technology. It’s one of those mechanical whizzbang gadgets invented a century ago. A polygraph cannot detect whether a person is lying any better than Zoltan the great.
The creepy light up gypsy head in the glass cabinet at the local county fair can tell you your fortune. Seriously, the polygraph was brought to the market in 1921, which means it came just before the automated traffic signal. The electric blender and the Hoover Pneumatic vacuum cleaner and just after quick frozen foods and band-Aids.
At its core, a polygraph is just a device to record blood pressure and galvanic skin response end quote. The results it produces are so unreliable as to be completely useless. No, this is not hyperbole In the U S A, not only is it illegal to force a person to take a polygraph test. The polygraph test results are almost always inadmissible in a court of law.
The polygraph routinely produces both false positives and false negatives. The results are so bad, in fact, that some of America’s biggest enemies were and are able to pass them easily, and some spies and double agents during the Cold War were able to do this multiple times in a row. So, Despite this ability of real actual war criminals to easily pass a polygraph test, and despite several studies done over the years by multiple credible scientific groups, including the National Academy of Sciences and the American Psychological Association that have thoroughly debunked the effectiveness of the falsely named quote unquote lie detector test.
Law enforcement agencies still stubbornly insist on using this ridiculously old-fashioned, pseudo-scientific device that has precisely won redeeming quality. It looks scary. That’s it. That’s all it’s got going for it. Yes. This complete hoax of a contraption is so outmoded that the only purpose it serves today is to look frightening enough to get someone to confess to a crime.
Whether they did it or not, out of pure fear, and boy, is it ever scary. It looks like it’s a freakish three-way mishmash of an electrocardiogram, a seismograph, and a homemade bomb. All right. Do you get the picture now? Do you tell I’m not a fan. Nobody should be a fan. Polygraphs are complete utter garbage, not fit to be used by anybody in any circumstance, much less by the people charged with enforcing our laws and convicting criminals.
All right. End of rant. Back to the story.
So here I was facing the terrifying prospect of having to take a polygraph test, supposedly of my own will for an unpaid volunteer position. I didn’t ask for in a financial crimes unit. I didn’t care about. How was this happening? I was frightened, but I felt stuck. I was insulted when the volunteer coordinator asked me, when do you want to schedule your polygraph?
Want? Oh man. Oh, I don’t want to do this. But I picked something like four or five weeks out in the future thinking I’d postpone something this awful for as long as I could, and that was a big mistake. Because for the next four or five weeks I was filled with a secret miserable dread. My mind started playing tricks on me quietly.
I moderated a debate within my own head. What if I just call them and cancel the polygraph and tell them I don’t wanna volunteer anymore? It’s not like I’m getting paid anyway. No, no, no. If the police find out I’m trying to avoid a lie detector test, they’ll think I’m trying to hide something. But wait, what am I thinking?
I don’t have anything to hide. No, no, no, of course not. Then why am I so afraid of this? I don’t know. What do I do? Help. For weeks I lost sleep, lying awake for hours at night, tossing and turning terrified of the awful day to come. Now, as I mentioned before, I never told my wife why would I? She never keeps tabs on my day-to-day activities, and she didn’t need to know all the steps I had to take in order to become a volunteer with the police department.
Or did she? I was so conflicted. How would I tell her anyway? Just come out and say it. Uh, so honey, by the way, you know how I said I’m gonna be a police volunteer. Uh, I have to go down to the station and take a polygraph test that would make her totally freak out This awful argument raged quietly inside of me.
On and on it went. What if the police discovered something from my past? What if I’ve broken the law somehow, maybe even without me knowing and they decide to arrest me? What if I’ve committed a crime that I just forgot about and I won’t remember until I’m wired up to the machine being interrogated? If I get arrested, what will I do with the kids?
How will my brother know what to do since my wife will be out of town? The day drew near and I started panicking. I got on the internet and started doing some desperate searches. How to pass a lie detector test, how to beat a polygraph, and so on. After a few clicks though, I had an even worse thought.
What if by reading these articles and learning how to beat a polygraph, it would actually make me look even more guilty. What if these websites were actually government propaganda created by police departments and were filled with fake advice to try to make people fail Polygraph tests. Just when I started circling the drain, my hyperactive conscience gained the upper hand.
I decided, no, I’d rather fail a polygraph honestly, than get caught trying to cheat the system. That would be worse.
The day finally came. After my near anxiety attack in my car in the parking lot, I walked into the building. I checked in with a lady behind the bulletproof glass at the front desk. She pointed to a man I hadn’t even noticed who had already been standing there with his back against the wall. That’s Bob.
He’s the man you’ll be working with today. Whoa, that was creepy. Bob had the profile of a polygraph examiner straight out of central casting. Tall, non-descript and unemotional. It was gonna be impossible to read him. He didn’t smile. He said, hello, shook my hand, firmly, turned on his heels and started walking down the hallway.
Follow me, he said. I went up the elevator and walked past multiple security checkpoints where he had to use his badge to unlock a door. We walked down the hall and he motioned to a small office and waved me in. It was an ugly, sterile looking room with furniture that had clearly been installed in the 1970s and had not been touched since then.
I looked in the corner and saw a hard wooden chair that I knew I would be strapped to, and my heart instantly started racing. Bob sat down in his chair, then took the booklet I was holding out of my hands and opened it up. He told me I’m gonna ask you all the questions in the book right now, and I want you to answer them honestly.
Then when we’re done, I’ll hook you to the machine and ask you them all over again. Oh boy. I was gonna have to talk about everything in the book twice. That was really weird. Okay. I assented, I note this is a recollection to the best of my memory of exactly how this conversation and experience went.
Although, of course I cannot remember every single word verbatim as far as I can remember, everything here is a truthful summary. I was told or reminded that all of this was voluntary and that I could stop at any point in time and walk away. I was even required to give my signature to a test that this whole process was conducted voluntarily without threats and without duress, coercion, or force.
end quote. I had submitted myself freely to this examination and was remaining of my own will, knowing I could leave any time I so desired. One thing that Hollywood movies get pitifully wrong about polygraphs is that a polygraph exam is not open-ended. As I learned, a polygraph operator will never strap you to a machine and ask you, where were you last Friday at 8:43 PM That’s an open-ended question and can’t be used during a polygraph exam.
They will only ever ask you yes or no questions. So to use the example above, a polygraph examiner might say something like, were you at home last Friday at 8:43 PM And then you would reply yes or no. Before I was strapped to the machine, he was asking me all about what I’d written. Some of his questions were simple.
Had I ever committed any act of unlawfully taking the life of another human being end quote. No duh. Next, had I ever committed any act of exposing my anus or genitals in public to sexually arouse or gratify myself or another person, what were they serious? He had to ask me these questions out loud that I had already answered on paper.
These are dumb. Of course not. No. Next question. But then they started getting a little bit weird and became harder to answer. Had I ever committed any act involving, hurting, harming, abusing, striking, or injuring any person under the age of 15 years? end quote. Hmm. Well, timeout. I had a question about that one.
Um, excuse me, sir. How do you define that? How do I answer the question? Had I ever committed any act that ever involved injuring a person under the age of 15 years? Of course I had back when I was under the age of 15 years myself, what teenage boy hadn’t gotten in a scuffle with another teenage boy. At some point I told Bob I needed help answering this question.
It was one of a few where I had left the answers blank when I filled it out cause I didn’t know how to answer it. And that’s when this pseudo-scientific ritual became the theater of the absurd. Um, okay, Bob, I have a question about that one. Are you asking me if I as an adult have injured a child under the age of 15 or as a child his response was insulting, unhelpful, and condescending?
Well, what does it say? Does it say as an adult? Um, I guess not. So then what is your question? Wait, wait, wait. So you’re telling me that I have to admit to you under oath that I am guilty of hurting, harming, abusing, striking, or injuring a person under the age of 15 years, even if I was under the age of 15 years myself?
Well, I don’t know. Bob said, why are you asking? Have you actually done that? Um, Well, yes, I can think of at least one fist fight. I got in with another boy my age in my neighborhood when I was probably 11 years old. Well then Bob said, doesn’t that answer your question? No, no, no. I don’t think so. What are you saying?
Are you saying I should say yes to this question? Well, did you, he asked did I what? Punch an 11 year old boy when he punched me when I was also an 11 year old boy. Yes, I just told you that. Well, why are you asking me? You have to be truthful and answer the question honestly. Okay. This was going very poorly.
I knew I was gonna regret coming in today, but I had no idea that it would be for such pitifully, stupid and pedantic reasons. Okay. Thinking to myself, I guess I have to say yes to that question though, but it’s clearly a stupid question asked as stupidly as possible. Nobody in real life is gonna hold it against me that I got into a fist fight with a peer when I was a preteen.
This was so crazy. He insisted I fill out the booklet exactly as written. So after marking that section with a yes, admitting to this evil deed, I then had to elaborate in the explanation section below the questions. The heading read quote in the space provided for you below, you must explain any yes answer that you have given to any of the above items.
Give date of incident and circumstances. end quote. I protested, uh, this doesn’t make any sense. I have no idea when this would’ve been, and it happened probably twice in the span of one week, but I can’t possibly remember the date of the incident. I was astounded at his response. He insisted I write out whatever I could remember.
So lemme get this straight. You want me to write out, I got involved in at least one, maybe two separate fist fights with one of the neighbor kids on my front lawn when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old when I lived in Stockton, California. That’s what you want me to write here. His response made me see red like a raging bull.
Well, you tell me. Is that the truth? I told you I don’t remember. I, I don’t know. I was a child. This was literally 19 years ago. I’m telling you, it may be the truth, but if you’re gonna try to nail me on specifics, Ron, if you’re telling me you hurt, harmed, abused, struck, or injured a person under the age of 15 years, you need to say yes and explain the details below.
I can’t tell you what to write, but if what you’re telling me is the truth, you need to write that. Oh, I was absolutely gulled at the insanity of such an idiotic system. This was way beyond pseudo-scientific methods for measuring blood pressure and galvanic skin response. We were now in a crazy lala land of Willy Wonka and MPA Lumps where nothing makes sense.
It’s opposite day, and words have no meaning. And I hadn’t even been strapped to the machine yet. On and on. This circus lasted for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. As this stern, soulless man deadpan a list of the most exasperating questions I have ever been asked in my life. Questions, not designed to get at any sense of the truth, but designed to shame, to embarrass, and to humiliate.
At the very end, he told me that if I sign the final statement, everything I say will be recorded and placed on file forever with the district attorney, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and even the F B I and that I cannot and never will receive any immunity for sharing any of this information. I thought about this.
Finally signed the meaningless statement at the end that said everything I had written was true despite my protestations, that I didn’t know half the answers to the questions because they were way too specific. I was in my thirties and I couldn’t possibly remember every peccadillo I had ever committed, even accidentally.
I was almost afraid he would look it over, watch me sign it, and then shout, haha, you forgot to say Uno. You lose. Actually, that’s a good metaphor, I think because it was clear to me that this whole thing was a game. It wasn’t real. None of this was real, and none of this had anything to do with preventing crime or protecting the public virtue of a volunteer program.
By the time I filled out that stupid booklet, it had multiple inane explanations, like I may or may not have stolen up to five or $10 worth of pens, paperclips, envelopes, or post-it notes from my employer unknowingly over the past five or six years. But I’m not sure, and I didn’t do it intentionally. If I did, I had completely given up.
I was already done, and technically we hadn’t even started. With my final signature on the very last page, signing my life away, it was now time to sit in the hot seat as he put the band around my chest and the wires on my fingers, he reminded me, mockingly, it seemed it. Don’t forget you are doing this of your own free will and you can leave any time you so desire, but that’s part of the mind.
Fuck that a polygraph is. They say you can walk away now or at any time during the polygraph. All you have to do is say, stop and I’ll unhook you and it will be done and you can leave this office. Do you understand? It’s very weird. You have to verbally assent to this and agree that you know that you can leave whenever you want, but it’s a mind game.
The fact that they keep saying this over and over throughout the exam. Makes you think the thing is all a ruse. And if you leave, they’re going to say, aha, we knew you were guilty this whole time. Seize him and arrest you for somehow committing perjury or acting guilty as though that’s enough probable cause to arrest you.
I was stuck. I had gotten this far, so surely if I walked away now, two things would happen. I wouldn’t be able to volunteer like I had originally intended, and they would know I was hiding something. So, They would have to know. I sat down in the hard, painful wooden chair. He strapped me into the old fashioned time machine, and questions began.
It started with very simple questions. Are you Ronald Stauffer? Yes. Do you live at 49 0 6 Hackamore Drive South Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80,918. Yes. Is your birthdate the following? Yes. The idea here supposedly is that they can see how your body responds to questions they know are true. This gives them the ability to establish a baseline of your normal breathing rate and heart rate cetera.
Okay. With those shenanigans out of the way, here came the real questions. Have you ever used marijuana in any form? No. Have you ever been married to two persons at the same time? Giggling? Well, I wasn’t really giggling. I was extremely uncomfortable, but it was hard not to giggle? No. Have you ever used marijuana in any form?
Uh, no. Now I’m getting irritated. Why is this question being asked again? I already answered it. Do you own a sawed off shotgun? No. Have you ever sexually assaulted another person? No. Have you ever used marijuana in any form? No. Now I’m wondering why on earth he keeps asking me this question, did he think I was lying?
Am I failing this polygraph? Have you ever committed incest? No. Have you ever used marijuana in any form? No. Now I’m getting angry. Some of the questions are easy and I breeze past them, but most of them are stupid. Seriously, who owns a saw off shotgun? Why would I possess child pornography? What kind of person has ever forced a person by threat or physical force to commit an act of prostitution?
end quote. And why would somebody who has engaged in a criminal enterprise, which seeks to further murder, arson, robbery, burglary, theft, kidnapping, aggravated assault, et cetera, actually want to go through this process? No, no, no, no, no, no. To everything. No to all these questions. I understand the need to ask these questions kind of polygraph or not.
I guess you could say the police department is doing their due diligence. That makes sense. But about two or three minutes in, I started getting very angry at Bob for asking the same question over and over and over about marijuana. Here’s the thing, I have never used marijuana. Not in any form ever, even once in my life, I’ve never smoked it, bought it, seen it, or touched it.
I have no idea where I would even go to find marijuana. Why would I, and why did he keep asking me the same question as though he didn’t believe me? What was his problem? He asked me. I kid you not, at least eight separate times if I had ever used marijuana in any form. And this made me start to panic, and now the mind games really began.
I started thinking one of two things. Either he’s trying to screw with my mind as much as possible and get me angry and agitated on purpose, or he thinks I’m lying, but if he thinks I’m lying, I fail the exam. And that’s the whole point of a polygraph exam. But he keeps asking it so incessantly that I start to wonder, Hmm.
He really seems stuck on that one question. Maybe I should just say yes to the marijuana question. So it seems to him like I’m telling the truth and then he’ll move on. But wait, I remember I never have used marijuana, so if I say that I have, then I would actually be lying. And the entire purpose of taking this test, allegedly, is to see whether I would lie to the police or not.
So then not only would I fail the test, I might even be committing a crime by committing perjury. I was so confused now, it felt like I was in a daze. The room was spinning. My eyeballs had turned into kaleidoscopes. Everything looked funny. About the ninth time he asked me if I’d ever used marijuana, I started to doubt my own sanity.
No joke. I started wondering could it be that I actually have used marijuana and I just didn’t know it. Maybe I actually did find marijuana in some form somewhere, somehow, and rolled it up in some fashion, lit it on fire, put it in my mouth, and inhaled the smoke, and I just forgot about it. Could that be the case?
Now, I know this might sound utterly ridiculous and maybe even farfetched, but I assure you this is exactly where my mental state was. My mind hurt. The floor was giving way under me like a whirling dervish. Everything was spinning, and I started to feel motion sick. I got so queasy. I looked in front of me and saw a doorstopper on the wall and fixated my eyes on that and told myself, just keep looking at that and you won’t throw up.
I was staring at this rubber doorstop when he asked me if I was associated with an organized crime ring and had ever tried to volunteer with the police department in order to spy on them. By this point, I didn’t know anything anymore. I didn’t know who I was or where I was as far as I knew, yes, maybe the reason I was in this room today was because the mafia had sent me to pretend to apply as a volunteer with the Colorado Springs Police Department to.
Infiltrate their ranks so we could commit crimes. I know these are crazy thoughts. I knew they were crazy thoughts, but I was almost insane. I. I didn’t know anybody in the mafia. I lived in Colorado Springs, the most boring city on planet earth. I’m just a guy with a wife and five kids who came to the Police Citizens Academy and wanted to volunteer to watch the downtown security cameras to keep an eye on the vandalism and public urination.
That happened at my office building where I worked for a construction company. That was, it was this real life. Was this a dream? Was I dying? All these crazy thoughts were zooming in and out of my head, making me seasick with the commotion, but just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, the examiner got nasty and made it personal.
I was caught up in a vortex of uncertainty and confusion already when I heard him tell me, sit up straight. Yes, sir. I said, then he asked the strangest question, why are you breathing like that? Huh? I answered, uh, like, what? I’m just breathing normally. This is just how I breathe. He replied Very accusingly.
No, it isn’t. Nobody breathes like that normally, Ron. Ooh, that was it. I was out. I was done. I was done before I walked into the stupid room and filled out their stupid paperwork and sat in this stupid chair and answered all these stupid questions. This was just adding insult to injury, and it was totally uncalled for.
One could argue for the need for all these questions he had asked up until this point, but now he crossed the line. He was coming as close as possible to calling me a liar without using those words. Think about this. A police officer was essentially accusing me of lying to him that’s committing perjury.
I wanted to leave, but I wasn’t going to. Even though he had reminded me several times throughout this process that I had submitted myself freely to this examination and remained of my own free will, knowing I could leave any time I so desired, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I was not going to, I was gonna see this out, and then I was never, ever going to help the police ever again as long as I lived.
This was not justice. This was not law enforcement. This was pure farce kabuki theater designed to intimidate, frighten, and harass law-abiding citizens who in good faith, volunteered their time freely to help crack down on crime and assist their local police force. That’s who I was, and that’s what my intention was before.
But now, no longer after a few more rounds of questioning, including, have you ever used marijuana in any form? And accusing me of breathing weirdly, I. Extremely abruptly. He told me. All right, that’s it. You’re done. Thank you for your time. Shocked. I asked him to confirm. We’re done already. You. You mean I can leave?
Yes, he said and instructed me on how to remove all the monitoring gear from my fingers and my chest. I was shocked and started unhooking the blood pressure cuff thinking, wow, I must have failed. He only asked me about 10 different questions, and I saw at least 36 questions in the booklet. What did I do wrong?
I wondered. He must have thought that because of the way I was breathing, I was lying to him about marijuana. But that’s so bizarre because I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t know anything about it. Why did he keep harping on that stupid marijuana question over and over and over? What was the deal with that?
He took the booklet from off the table and said, I’ll take this. We’re done here. Have a nice day. My stomach burbled with a nervous acid stew. I had no idea what to think. It had started so poorly and ended so abruptly. He didn’t go into any of the questions that I thought were serious, and he spent most of the time asking me about dumb things like saw off shotguns, pornography, incest, and marijuana.
I, I left by myself, shaking and all alone. Retracing the steps we had taken to get there. I didn’t need any of the security badges to leave the building. I just walked out with no escort and absolutely no idea on earth what I had just participated in, and whether I was actually free to go or if they were playing yet another game with me.
I was the only person I knew of who had ever taken a polygraph test, and now I was pretty convinced I had failed one. And in the dumbest twist of fate possible, I had done it all voluntarily. Why? I wondered, why did I do this? This will go down as one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done in my life. I timidly, got back in the car, fired up the engine, and slowly drove out of the parking lot.
I drove exactly the speed limit all the way home in perfect silence. I was half expecting that when I pulled up to the house. There would be cop cars there with police officers ready to arrest me for committing perjury and somehow failing a polygraph. But I couldn’t get past the fact that I had told the truth.
How could I possibly fail a lie detector test? By not lying. I got home and nervously parked in my driveway. Phew. No police cars. My wife wasn’t home either. That was good. Now I could pretend this whole thing never happened at all. My brother asked, how’d it go? And I said, oh, it was fine. I don’t wanna talk about it
for the next few days. I pretended everything was fine. Except there was that nagging fact that kept me awake at night for a few weeks, thinking about how the police department, district Attorney, attorney General Colorado Bureau of Investigations and now the F B I had access to my written confession of being in not one.
But two fist fights with the neighborhood kid when I was maybe 11 years old, and how I may have or may not have accidentally stolen a few dollars worth of pens and post-it notes from my employer. Did they care? I had no idea. Would they come find me and arrest me when I was out with my family. I didn’t know were my skirmish with a childhood peer and a few dollars of paper and pens a crime.
Was it a crime to fail, a polygraph test? I don’t know. I didn’t know about any of that. A few weeks of even more heartache, sick stomach and lost sleep passed. Then one day my cell phone rang, restricted, said the caller id. Normally I wouldn’t answer a call like that, but I did. Fearing it might be the police.
I heard a woman’s voice on the other end. Hello, Ron. This is Soandso from the Colorado Springs Police Department. All the air left my lungs. She paused for an uncomfortably long time. So you passed your polygraph exam. When do you wanna come pick up your volunteer badge? I don’t remember anything about what she or I said.
After that. I know that I went and picked up my badge at the police station a week or two later, held on to it for a few weeks, and then after never volunteering in any capacity, I. Stuffed it into an envelope and mailed it back to the police department and said, I resign. Please cancel me as a volunteer and take me off your list.
A while later, they sent me a survey asking me about how my application process went so they could improve the volunteer program. Oh, oh boy. I could have written about 14 pages worth of notes, but I didn’t. I just politely told them in the most respectful way I knew how that this experience I went through was miserable, insulting, offensive, and only serves to further drive a wedge between the community and its law enforcement officers.
I regret getting involved at all, and I wish I had never signed up in the first place, and now I’m even more fearful because I know that you and or the Colorado Bureau of Investigations and or the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Is going to read this feedback and you might hold it against me in the future if I ever try to run for public office or apply for a security clearance.
I wish it weren’t that way, but I fear that it is to be clear. If a crime happens, I will call 9 1 1 and I’m very glad that there are people who are willing to take that call and dispatch police officers to help me. I respect law enforcement. I respect the law. I have friends who are police officers. I nearly became a police officer when I was younger, but I do not respect the way I was treated.
The unscientific and insulting approach the police department used, and I now lament how such an idiotic process turned me from being a passionate advocate for crime-free communities and a fan of law enforcement who was willing to volunteer my time for free to help my local police department. Into someone who will never trust law enforcement ever again.
I feel this is a shame and it didn’t have to be that way. It’s all their fault and I think it’s their loss, and that ladies and gentlemen, is the first and last time I ever volunteered for a police department, and I will never, ever submit to another polygraph exam for as long as I live. Thanks for listening.
You’ve been listening to Mike Ron, a one man podcast about living, learning, and the people I’ve met who make this world an interesting place. I am the host, the writer, the editor, the producer, the man with the mic, Ron Stauffer. Micron is recorded right here in my office, located in the scorching heat of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
If you liked this episode of Micron, share it with a friend. Even better, leave a rating or review on your favorite podcast platform. To view photographs, read episode transcripts, or find resources mentioned in the show. Visit micron podcast.com. While you’re there, use the contact form to send me a message.
I am always open to feedback, including questions, comments, and episode suggestions. I am listening to you. Thanks for listening to me.
By the way, on a side note, you know how you sometimes hear about people admitting to crimes that they didn’t actually commit. I had always wondered about that. Why on earth would you admit to committing a crime that you knew you weren’t guilty of? Let me tell you why. Having sat in that hot seat, being interrogated by a police officer, I would’ve admitted to anything.
Did I assist in the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the 1960s, even though I was born in 1985? Yes, absolutely I did. Now, can I get out of this chair? Am I a Russian spy? Yes. Even though I’ve never been to Russia and I don’t speak Russian, and I don’t know how to be a spy, do I have stolen nuclear secrets?
Yes. Come to my house. You’ll find them there. Who cares? I’ll say yes to anything. Make it stop. This experience completely changed my views on interrogation, torture, enhanced interrogation, whatever you wanna call it. I can very easily see why somebody would say, yes, I did murder that person. Even though they know in their head, they don’t even know who that person is.
I can understand admitting to almost anything on earth as long as it makes them stop asking you those questions. And honestly, I’d like to see polygraphs become illegal for everybody everywhere, always.
If you liked this episode of Micron (or even if you didn’t), let me know! I’m always open to feedback, including questions, comments, and episode suggestions. Send an email to feedback@https://ronstauffer.com/micron. You can also leave a review on Apple Podcasts here, which would be super-helpful as I try to grow the reach of the show. Thanks!