The judge ordered testing for the position of patrol sergeant - a four-part exam that began Sept. 7 with a written test and continued Nov. 26 with an oral phase - to continue. This is the first time Upper Dublin has used polygraph testing as part of its promotion process.
The decision will most likely be appealed, according to Keith Kendall, who represented the 13 officers and the Upper Dublin Police Benevolent Association in the lawsuit.
"It's one judge's opinion. Until a decision is made by the Commonwealth Court, I don't think it can be considered the law of the state," Kendall said in a telephone interview.
In his decision, Rossanese cited a case in which the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared polygraph testing legal for hiring in law enforcement jobs, and dismissed the officers' contentions that their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection, and against self-incrimination, were being violated.
He also cited testimony from Herbert Craft, chairman of the Upper Dublin Civil Service Commission. Craft testified that failing a polygraph test would not lead to prosecution or discipline. The results will only be used by the township's Board of Commissioners in considering candidates for patrol sergeant, he said.
In their suit against the Civil Service Commission, the officers also contended that polygraph testing was "an unreliable indicator" and would not fairly test the merit of each candidate to perform the duties of patrol sergeant.
Rossanese said that, practically speaking, the polygraph gauged each candidate's "propensity to be truthful" and is a "measure of his fitness for the rank of patrol sergeant."
Rossanese also said that the first-class township code (Upper Dublin is a first-class township) and the Civil Service Code permit polygraph tests for entry-level positions. Because the codes do not distinguish between entry- level and promotional examinations, they should be treated the same, he said.
The Upper Dublin Police Department has been operating for more than two years without a patrol sergeant. The Board of Supervisors hopes to name a new patrol sergeant by Dec. 31, according to its solicitor, Leonard A. Busby.