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Police in Tennessee town must take polygraphs

6:34 AM, Mar 10, 2013   |    comments
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(CNN) -- After a series of problems that included a police officer using a racial slur, the new police chief in a Tennessee town is trying to clean up his department's image by requiring all applicants to take a polygraph test.

"I felt that it would help me to select people with good moral character to be police officers," Chief Shane Sullivan told CNN on Saturday. "The town's had enough bad happen to it, and I want to rebuild the department and give them professional law enforcement."

The polygraph test asks whether the person has ever viewed child pornography or committed a racially motivated crime. It also asks about criminal history, work history or possible drug or alcohol abuse, said Sullivan, who recently took over as police chief in Coopertown, a town of about 4,000 people just north of Nashville.

It does not ask candidates whether they are racist.

"No one that has been given the test has failed it," Sullivan said. "I have had a few people come in and ask me about employment, and once I tell them about the polygraph, I've had a couple not come back or not show any more interest."

The Coopertown Police Department was rocked last summer when an officer was caught on video using a racial slur after stopping a black driver, CNN affiliate WSMV reported.

The officer was fired, the police chief resigned and the four-member department was dissolved, WSMV said.

Several years earlier, the department was accused of targeting Hispanic drivers, and the town was notorious for being a speed trap along its section of Interstate 24, the station reported.

Sullivan said he decided to start the polygraph tests after taking one himself when he was hired.

"I saw from my examination that if I had any hidden agendas or any bad thoughts or anything like that, that it would have come out," he said.

The public and administration have been supportive of his move, he said.

"They understand there are a lot of changes that need to be made to do what they need in terms of law enforcement," he said.

One resident who spoke to WSMV said he doesn't believe a lie detector will fix all the town's problems, but he says it's a sign that Coopertown is moving in the right direction.

"People are ready to move on, and they don't want to be associated with the past stigma that the last people in office put on the town," resident Michael Primm said.

CNN News

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