Face time: Polygraph detective Anne Stahl
From fidgety movements, a spike of a heart rate and a high-tech instrument, MSU Police Detective Anne Stahl can tell when someone is lying to her face. Stahl is one of very few women in Michigan to operate a polygraph, or a diagnostic instrument with components that help her diagnose whether someone is being truthful or not by reading the examinee’s physiological responses to different types of questions.
Monitors are hooked up to an individual’s upper torso, stomach, fingers and arm to measure sweat gland activity, heart rate and movements. After working as a police officer for 11 years — seven of which occurred at the MSU Police Department — Stahl attended one of the most prestigious polygraph schools in the U.S., the National Center for Credibility Assessment in South Carolina.
Since her graduation from the 14-week school, she has conducted almost 600 tests in the last five years for MSU Police, working with examinees ranging from 14 to more than 70 years old. Between her scheduled detective work, The State News sat down with Stahl to talk about the elements of the lying game.
The State News: What type of polygraph test do you conduct?
Anne Stahl: Specific issue (testing), which is basically used for criminal examinations. For example, did you steal that laptop? … It’s good for situations where you might have multiple people who would’ve had access to something — for example, money in the workplace — and the polygraph is great because it helps eliminate those innocent people and narrow the focus of an investigation for the police officers.
*SN: What types of people do you examine? *
AS: Criminal sexual conduct is by far the largest type of crime that I give polygraph examinations for, and the reason for that is because, often, it comes down to one person says one thing versus another person says another about the actual event. Often, the only evidence might be a polygraph examination. Now that information is not admissible in court, but any other statements, admissions and confessions that I’m able to get during the course of the interview with the examinee before and after the examination can be used in court.
SN: Do you have any memories for working the polygraph that stick out in your mind?
AS: The very first polygraph exam that I conducted after I came back from polygraph school (was) a very serious charge: it was a criminal sexual conduct … I found (the examinee) to be deceptive. I interviewed him and was able to obtain a confession, and he later was tried for that charge and was sent to prison. So that sticks out in my mind because it was my very first one, and to come back from polygraph school and do exactly what I had been trained to do was very exciting and rewarding.