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Retired FBI agent brings science, skill to polygraph testing

Jay Cherry spent a dozen years separating the truth from lies as a polygraph examiner for the FBI.

He retired in 2012 after 21 years as an FBI agent and in June 2014 opened Eagle Eye Polygraph, 106 W. Wilson St. in Batavia. His wife, Kathy, is the co-owner and does the administrative support work for the company.

“I did criminal work, investigating federal crimes and did polygraph testing as a specialty since 2004,” said Cherry, of Batavia. “To beat the polygraph, it is very difficult. ... To a trained examiner, it is really obvious.”

A common fallacy is when people being examined actually believe their lies, the machine will not register them as being untruthful, he said.

“Studies with sociopaths and college students [show they] fair equally well and equally poorly,” Cherry said. “A sociopath does know the difference between right and wrong. They still react physiologically when they lie, they just don’t care. Even if you believe the lie, the body reacts. The autonomic nervous system [signals] fight or flight.”

The modern tools quickly tell on someone who is lying or trying to beat the equipment – as monitors track and record heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and sweating. The questions are well defined and require a simple “yes” or “no” answer, he said, something those being tested should be able to answer with confidence.

“The technology is more sophisticated, but basically uses the same principles from 100 years ago,” Cherry said. “We have better ways of recording physiology. I’ve had ... guilty people who … think they can beat the test through force of will.”

Plus, there is the examiner himself, looking at the person being tested with a trained eye, he said.

“When you’ve seen normal physiology in more than a thousand tests – I’ve done 1,200 to 1,500 tests – you know abnormal physiology,” Cherry said. “When I see somebody trying to alter that intentionally, it is obvious to the trained eye.”

One who cannot be tested is a person who is psychotic, Cherry said.

“I can’t test you if you do not know the difference between what is real and not real,” Cherry said.

Tests are 90 to 120 minutes long and cost from $250 to $1,000, depending on the circumstances, he said. Much of his work is pre-employment testing for police and fire departments, Cherry said.

In an email, Geneva Police Cmdr. Julie Nash wrote the department relies on pre-employment polygraph testing.

“It is a useful tool, when used in conjunction with other tools, such as an extensive background investigation and psychological testing,” Nash wrote.

Campton Hills Police Chief Daniel Hoffman said his department uses polygraph testing before hiring new officers.

“Especially with integrity issues, you just want that extra layer of protection when you hire someone to do police work,” Hoffman said.

Kane County Sheriff Donald Kramer said the county also uses the polygraph for pre-employment testing.

“It is a good tool, and I say that for a couple of reasons,” Kramer said. “Essentially, what it does is, it verifies what a candidate or prospective employee put down on their employment application. That is what most employers are looking for – consistency in their answers.”

Cherry also does post-conviction sex offender testing – while they are on probation to verify whether they have reoffended – and testing for spouses wanting to know whether their husband or wife cheated, he said.

“I get lots of late night calls for infidelity, mostly on Friday and Saturday nights,” Cherry said. “I’ve done 40 or more, equal men and women. It takes two to tango. We do the test for people who are sex addicts who want to prove they are on the straight and narrow.”

Cherry said the test cannot measure emotions, such as whether people still love their husband or wife.

“It measures physical acts as opposed to lust or desire or emotions. Physical acts are not emotions,” Cherry said. “If they pass the test – which happens quite often – it can be healing for the offended party. ‘I have not cheated on you.’ ”

Know more

Information about Eagle Eye Polygraph is available online at or by calling 630-937-4214.

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