Lie Detector: BCSO polygraph examiner seeks justice
by Jessica Loeding
Apr 10, 2011 | 2215 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
"You bare your soul to Jerry Rowe." That is how a friend and colleague sums up the Bartow County polygraph examiner's abilities.

A soft-spoken man, Rowe's earnest, humble demeanor may provide a false sense of security. Those friendly green eyes miss little, and when he begins to talk about his life, you understand there is more to Rowe than meets the eye.

His office in the Bartow County Sheriff's Office may reflect more aptly who Jerry Rowe is -- a man who loves his family, God and his farm.

"This is what my little granddaughter drew for me last weekend as they were trying to find that man who killed the police officer over in Athens. She drew that for me," he says pointing to what is presumably a self-portrait of the girl with a cross and flowers. "She said, 'Pop, I want you to put this on your desk so you'll be protected.'"

Rowe's years of needing protection may have changed somewhat. After spending 30 years with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, where he specialized in sex crimes, he retired in 2007 and came to the county as head of the polygraph unit.

Today he splits his time between the BCSO, his private business and the farm, where he plans to enjoy a future second retirement with his grandchildren.

Occupation: Polygraph examiner

City of residence: Resaca in Gordon County

Age: 58

Family: Married to wife Rose; daughter, Stacy, and stepdaughter, Kim; two grandchildren, 13-year-old Coy and 9-year-old Carrington

Education: Graduate of Berrien County High School in Nashville, Ga., "like 20 miles north of Valdosta;" bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Kennedy Western University; member of American Polygraph Association, American Association of Police Polygraphists, Georgia Polygraph Association, Alabama Association of Polygraph Examiners and has earned the Director's Award, Deputy Director's Award and Medal of Valor from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation

Q: How did you get involved with the GBI and law enforcement?

A: I was in the military -- the Army. I was over in Berlin, Germany. As a matter of fact, I was one of the few who guarded Rudolf Hess at Spandau [Prison], one of Hitler's top aides. While he was in prison, I was stationed there.

Q: How was that?

A: I would see him, he was the only prisoner in the prison. The Americans, the Russians, British and I think maybe the French, I'm not sure, each one would take a month at a time guarding him. I can remember him walking out in the yard in the prison. He was just an old man then. He was tried for war crimes in Nuremberg and was given life. When I would see him walking around, he never would hold his head up -- he had his head down walking around.

But then, when I got out of the military, I went to work in Albany in the Albany Police Department for about two years, and I met a friend of mine [who] had been stationed in Brunswick, Ga., Glynn County, in the Navy, and he went to work over there and I moved over there. I became friends with a GBI agent, really didn't know too much about the GBI. Then when I met him I decided I wanted to join the GBI, and I started going to college at night and got my degree. I got my bachelor's degree in criminal justice, and then I put in for GBI and took the test and came on to the GBI.

Q: How did you get into polygraph?

A: I had always been interest in interviews -- interviews and interrogation. I was always fascinated by the polygraph and so they had an opening in Atlanta for polygraph examiner. ... I really wasn't hyped up on coming to Atlanta because I was in South Georgia, but I prayed about it -- it was a promotion -- and I got it and went to polygraph school. And then I was polygraph from 2000 to 2007 with the GBI, and I came here in 2007.

I also do ... I have about 10 to 12, well I think it's 11, other departments -- sheriff's departments -- all around the metro area. I go do their pre-employments under my private business. They have to pay me.

When I got ready to retire I had five departments trying to hire me, but I came here. It was closer to home, and like I say, I was friends with [Sheriff}] Clark [Millsap]. I knew he was a Christian man, a good supervisor, so I came here.

Q: What is the best and worst part of your job?

A: Well, the best part is if somebody hasn't done something, I can clear them. And the worst part is, you know, you see the worst of the worst -- the child molesters, the homicides. You just see the worst of the worst in that polygraph room. I just ask God to walk with me in that polygraph room every time I go in there.

Q: What do you look for when giving a polygraph?

A: People come in here and tell me "I'm nervous." First of all, if you're not nervous and you come to the sheriff's department or the GBI to take a polygraph and you tell me you're not nervous, automatically I know you're lying. You can't come to a sheriff's department and be accused of something and not be nervous, so I know that. I try to explain to them it works on the autonomic nervous system. It's like going down the road at 80 mph and you look behind you and see blue lights. Well your heart rate goes up and you feel your face flushed, you might even start burning on the back of your neck. But once that police officer doesn't stop you and goes around you, [sigh] then you can breathe and can come down. That's like a question. If I ask you, "Did you cause John any harm?", say he's been shot. I don't ask you, "Did you shoot him?" I ask, "Did you cause him harm?" Or, "Did you kill him?" I don't say that because you can really justify, "Well, I didn't kill him, the gun killed him." So I ask, "Did you cause any harm to that person?" Question technique is everything. You should be no more nervous to that than if I asked, "Is today Wednesday?" I'll ask a question, "Are you in the state of Georgia? Are the lights on in this room?" I should get the same, homeostasis is what it's called, I should get the same thing. Now if I'm doing a child molestation and it's your child, there's going to be a little reaction just because it's so distasteful. But, if you did it, it should go off my paper, there should be a real reaction. But just by you hearing me say, "Did you inappropriately touch Susie?" -- and your daughter is Susie -- just by hearing of her being touched will cause a reaction, but it won't cause a reaction enough to say you're not truthful.

I think the polygraph is 100 percent but the operator is not. ... It just takes experience because there's no one the same. It just takes experience reading them and seeing them and seeing how a person reacts. If you're doing a criminal case, it's how much the detective did. If he did a great job and he knows ... And I tell the detective, "When you come in here, you should have completely worked this case. You want to tell me that, 'Hey, if he passes that polygraph, he beats you.' You should have done that much on that case." I know there are some cases that are a he said-she said and you can only do so much, i.e., child molestation, you can only do so much, but you should be able to tell me nine out of 10 times how you feel about it. I tell the person when they come in here, "They don't really believe you or they wouldn't have you in here with me testing you."

Q: What do you like about Bartow County?

A: Well I just like Bartow County. It's up out of Atlanta. It's not a real small town, but it's not a large town. There are a lot of good people in Bartow County.

Q: What is your favorite meal?

A: I guess I'm a meat and potato man. [Laughing] Change that to liars, because I eat them for lunch.

Q: What do you think makes you good at your job? What makes people "bare their soul to Jerry Rowe?"

A: Well I been doing this all my life. I've been a police officer for 37 years and I know ... Sometimes I don't know if they're telling the truth until I run the test. Once I run the test, I know if they're truthful or not, and that's why I ask God to go in that polygraph with me, to give me the wisdom, to give me what to say to this person, because if I've got a child molester I want to call him the worst pervert in the world. I'll tell him, "You got a problem and you need that problem fixed. Are you willing to get it fixed?" I said, "It's just like me. I got a little girl, and if she comes running through the living room with her underwear on, my mind closes up like a door because I don't think nothing like that. But your door is ajar and we need to be able to shut that door. Are you willing to get help?"

I try to get as much as I can ... just a polygraph me telling you failed is not helping the investigator, it's not helping the victim. I try with all my heart to get a confession out of this child molester to keep that little girl from having to get up and testify or that family member of a homicide from getting up there or that burglary victim who just wants it go away, wants there property back. If I go in there and I say, "You failed," they don't tell me nothing. I'm not helping anybody. I do everything I can to try to help the victim and the person. Some people who come in there are truthful, and ... the investigator keeps. "I don't think they're involved. I don't think they did it, but I just want to make sure he didn't do it." It just makes me feel good when I can look at a person, "You passed. You didn't do it."

Q: What is your greatest accomplishment?

A: Being saved by Jesus Christ. I got the medal of valor when I was with the GBI back in '98. A guy killed a whole family -- four people -- in Santa Claus, Ga., then molested two of the little girls. I helped work on that case. I wasn't the case agent, but I went up underneath the house and I just said enough people have died today and drawed him out. That was an accomplishment but nothing like being saved by Jesus Christ. I'll tell a person in a polygraph don't confuse humbleness with weakness. I'm not weak, I'm humble. I'll treat you right as I want you to respect me.

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

A: [Being] Out on that farm on the tractor bushhogging. Driving my John Deere Gator.