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He's Teaching Police How to Detect Lies
Reprinted from "The South Bend Tribune"
South Bend, Indiana, Thursday, April 29, 1993
by Kevin Boughal, Tribune Staff Writer
Most people do not lie, says Avinoam Sapir, who makes a living as a human lie detector.
A former polygraph examiner with the Israeli police, Sapir said people may try to deceive. But, if you look closely enough at what they say, they are telling you when they are lying.
They also don't tell the whole truth until they are asked the right questions, he said.
Sapir has been in South Bend this week teaching police from local agencies and private investigators his Scientific Content Analysis, an interview technique he invented.
Sapir's theory is based entirely on the language people use to describe situations. The words people say and the way they choose them can tell an investigator right away if that person is lying, he said.
"You can report an event in many ways," he said. "People are selective in what they say. Everybody decides to select certain points in a story and say these points are important. So, it is not just important what people say, but what they didn't say."
It is important to listen carefully to what people say and not try to decide what they are implying or thinking, he said.
Sapir used statements that two suspects wrote for investigators after a recent shooting in Texas. Both men were at the scene of the shooting.
In the middle of the first statement, the writer said he heard a shot, looked up and saw the other man standing over the boy, who was on the ground. He never said who did the shooting.
However, the second suspect's statement starts right out saying the other man killed the victim.
Sapir said the first man is the killer because he never says he did not shoot the gun.
"Do you know how many murderers put in the story they heard the shot? ... Being truthful, but not saying everything, you would say, 'I heard the shot, looked up and saw Billy standing over him.' You would say, 'I heard the shot,' because if you shoot somebody, you heard the shot," Sapir said.
"It is really amazing. A person can kill, rape, can set a fire, but he cannot lie," he said.
Sapir says his system is very accurate, even more than a polygraph test, because the people tell their own story before they are questioned. He began using the system in 1984, and he gets between five and seven cases sent to him via facsimile each week. He admits he is still learning the method, but contends that he has only been seriously wrong twice.
Using his system to analyze the speech of famous people, he has concluded President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton have more of a brother and sister relationship than husband and wife.
St. Joseph County Police Sgt. Kevin Whippo said he attended the class in 1991 and has used the technique often in investigations.
"I think it is one of the best interview techniques there are," said Whippo.
In fact, county police like it so much they purchased a computer program Sapir invented that can analyze statements.
South Bend Police Capt. Richard Kilgore, internal affairs investigator, said he also has used the technique successfully.
The current class, sponsored by the South Bend Police Department, included officers from South Bend, Mishawaka, Elkhart County, Elkhart City, Lake and DeKalb Counties, Bloomington and Notre Dame.