First Person Singular: Dan Seiler, polygraph examiner

Dan Seiler has been involved in law enforcement issues and investigations for 35 years.
Dan Seiler has been involved in law enforcement issues and investigations for 35 years. (Benjamin C. Tankersley - For The Washington Post)
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

I've been active and involved in law enforcement issues and investigations for about 35 years. I've always felt that honesty was really important, and I always wanted to find the truth when I was an investigator. I even proved I was wrong in one of my cases -- I arrested the wrong person. The evidence was very strong; it was a live witness identification, and it was the wrong person. I had that person polygraphed, and they passed, and I said, "This can't be."

Well, then I went back to work on the case and proved there was somebody who looked just like this guy, who had a car just like his. It was unbelievable the coincidences. I said, "Wow, I gotta learn this, because if I could figure out if people were telling the truth, I could be a very good investigator."

I think you have to be a good one-on-one communicator. You have to understand that you need to treat people with dignity and respect, and most of the time you'll receive that in return. I think being respectful of other people lends itself to people wanting to sit down and talk to you. If you have a bad attitude when you talk to people and you are speaking down to them, it's a turnoff, and you are not going to get much cooperation out of that person.

One of the things I learned to do early on in my career -- I compartmentalize things. You have to compartmentalize some of these issues, or they will probably disrupt your career. I've worked on some very heinous cases, and I've had to deal with the people responsible for those things. And some people find that's very distasteful.

My goal is to get to the truth and try to leave out any personal animosity or judgment that I might have against the accused. I think it's made me a more logical and deliberative-type person over time. I don't usually jump to conclusions very quickly.

I'm not the trier of the facts; I'm not the defense attorney. I'm there to do a segmented part of a case which deals with credibility, usually of the witness or of a defendant, and I give that report to the attorney. We are all human. There are good and bad in every profession. It's a challenging profession, very challenging and varied in its application. But I always wanted to feel as though I did something important with my life, and [that] it would help, in some way, society.

Interview by Robin Rose Parker


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