Arizona child-welfare agency scraps secret recordings

A DCS recording policy meant to further investigate abuse has some people saying the agency has 'gone too far.'

Arizona's child-welfare agency says it's tossing out a new policy allowing for secret recordings of adults suspected of child abuse.

The move comes after 12 News raised questions about the policy with the Department of Public Safety.

Family law attorney Gregg Woodnick had brought the policy to our attention.

DCS is "essentially performing polygraphs on people unwittingly," he said.

Jennifer Kupiszewski, an attorney and former assistant attorney general, said the DCS policy was "shocking." 

"You have an agency that is conducting covert interviews and they may have their children," she said. "How do you trust that agency to work with you, to take care of your children?"

READ DCS policy on covert recordings during investigations

Woodnick, a family law attorney for 17 years, inadvertently discovered the three-month-old DCS policy, approved two days before last Christmas.

The policy allows investigators in DCS' Office of Child Welfare Investigations to covertly use a computer voice stress analyzer in certain situations.

DCS Director Greg McKay is a former Phoenix cop who headed OCWI five years ago. 

Promotional videos for the CVSA say it is "non-invasive, easy to learn, quick to use." Advocates say it's more accurate than a polygraph.

But there is little research on the effectiveness of computer voice analysis. 

One independent study found the lie detector was "no better than flipping a coin."

After 12 News notified DCS we were doing a story on the secret recordings, an agency spokeswoman, Cynthia Weiss, said the policy was being "rescinded":

"We have been looking at this policy and intend to rescind the portion of the policy relative to covert use of a CVSA exam. Although conducting 'covert' CVSA's was initially discussed and entered into the CVSA policy, it was later decided that covert CVSA's would not be conducted."

Weiss said no secret recordings had been made yet.

"That’s not what they’re supposed to be doing," Kupiszewski said.

"I can hear it when I talk to families. They say they feel bullied or threatened, and they definitely have expressed that they felt like DCS is not honest with them during the investigation process. This would indicate that maybe there is some merit to those claims."

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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