Shawn Pardazi speaking in front of red to blue lit wooden background

Street Cop Training/YouTube

Shawn Pardazi wows cops with his system for spotting lies—experts say taking his class makes them worse

Reviews are rave, but the science is questioned.


Michael Zhang


Posted on May 10, 2023

Shawn Pardazi, better known by his online persona the Savvy Sheikh, is a police personality with wide-reaching influence.

His TikTok and Facebook accounts have thousands of followers, with content geared toward officers watching.

@captsavvysheikh Episode 12 – Compartment in an Audi #SmugglersInc #k9softiktok #copsoftiktok #captsavvysheikh ♬ original sound – Capt. Savvy Sheikh

Pardazi offers supposedly groundbreaking police training courses, which claim to be able to teach officers a variety of secret, intuitive methods on how to tell when a suspect is being deceptive, which will lead to more successful interrogations. 

These courses have attracted the interest of police officers across the nation.

On July 30, 2021, nearly a hundred officers across Texas—including the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Frisco Sheriff’s Department, and the Fort Worth Police Department—all came to Round Rock for 24 hours of training from Pardazi, hosted by the Round Rock Police Department.

These officers attended two of Pardazi’s trademark classes “Decoding Cover Alibis” and “Smugglers Inc. 2.0.”

These two specific courses focused on teaching officers how to “identify suspicious occupant demeanors,” “identify various types of lies,” and how to catch “cover stories of criminal intent during interviews.”

And just in case the police of Texas happened to detain a member of the KGB, they would be taught how to “identify influential methods used by clandestine organizations to maintain secrecy while being interviewed.”

The reviews for Pardazi, obtained by the Daily Dot via FOIA requests to the Round Rock Police Department, were raves. Texas officers described the sessions as the “Best class ever. Could be a full week class!” 

It was a “No bullshit approach to interdiction with proven concepts, Pardazi is a hell of an instructor,” said one. One review also noted “How relatable the information” was, and “how it resonates with what you see on the road.” 

The only problem is Pardazi’s methods, taught to officers across the country, are built on claims experts have long questioned.  

Pardazi describes himself as a 27-year veteran of law enforcement and says he “served in investigative capacities” with the FBI, DHS, and the IRS. 

He is not affiliated with any of the police departments he teaches at. Pardazi did not respond to multiple requests for comment by the Daily Dot. 

According to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, officers are required to take refresher training designed to help cops improve their policing practices. The training requirements vary, but every two years an officer is expected to take approximately 40 hours. 

Regulations like these are where police personalities like Pardazi thrive, as his class can be hosted by any department to help officers become better cops. 

Alongside courses in tactical rifle marksmanship and operating a vehicle in self-defense, Pardazi pushes a type of investigative tactic that’s been criticized heavily by academics, who have noted that people trained in the methods taught often do worse in interrogations compared to those who never took his course. 

Pardazi describes his trademark “Evading Honesty” system as a “cross-cultural/crossgender system” that utilizes behavioral analysis to elicit information. 

Pardazi also cites himself as a certified expert-level practitioner in microexpression recognition from the Paul Ekman Group, a psychological research group designed to help people “detect deception.”

Pardazi claims that by taking his courses, an officer will be well equipped to identify lies and omissions when suspects are stopped and questioned, thus being able to deduce criminal intent behind their words. 

The Paul Ekman Group defines microexpressions as “facial expressions that occur within a fraction of a second. This involuntary emotional leakage exposes a person’s true emotions.” 

The group advertises that people can be trained to easily read these microexpressed emotions. 

According to the Paul Ekman Group, these microexpressions can last for just 1/25th of a second and can be as small as a purse of the lip or a twitch of the eyebrow. And by being able to “recognize” these minute details, one can tell an individual’s true emotion and intention.

The Paul Ekman Group did not respond to a Daily Dot request for comment. 

After taking Pardazi’s Ekman-influenced course, officers should be able to pick out cues from people who are lying, ones that happen faster than the average person can blink. 

However, a 2019 study by John Jay College, tested the claims of lie detection based on microexpressions. They found that microexpression detection doesn’t work as a lie detection tool. 

The group that underwent microexpression training did not outperform those who went through a placebo “microexpressions recognition” training session or those who had no training at all. 

Even worse, taking the actual “microexpressions recognition” training course made participant accuracy even worse than fully relying on pure chance. 

The only thing participants gained through the training was a higher level of false confidence in their lie detection accuracy and a higher likelihood of assuming an individual was deceptive.

Maria Hartwig, a researcher on the study and co-director of Project Aletheia, a center dedicated to improving the science and practice of interrogation, criticized Ekman’s research and Pardazi’s training in a comment to the Daily Dot. 

“When Ekman talks about his microexpression training, he’s very clear that if you learn how to read faces, and if you understand and learn to recognize microexpressions, you’ll achieve a hit rate of about 90%. It’s outlandish. It’s an incredible claim that he has never supported.” 

According to Hartwig, microexpression theory relies on the fact that a deceptive person feels emotions that a truth-teller will not, such as nervousness. However any person can experience nervousness in a high-stakes scenario like a traffic stop or a police interrogation, the exact scenarios Pardazi’s course focuses on. 

Pardazi also claims that through his nearly three decades of law enforcement experience and various positions as a patrol officer, narcotics agent, and canine handler, he has developed a “rapid behavioral analysis technique” that can be implemented to determine deception in an interview and interdiction scenario. 

However, Hartwig criticizes Pardazi’s expertise. 

“It’s a very frequent claim … They develop a sixth sense for lies, they use terms like bullshit detectors and stuff like that. There’s no question in my mind that this guy believes that to be the case, but there is evidence that he is wrong.” Hartwig said. “To my knowledge, there’s been no study showing police officers outperform lay people. However, they’re lie-biased so they make more lie judgments and they’re more confident … this is dangerous decision making.”

Pardazi’s courses have become so popular that they’ve been hosted across the country, with departments in Montana, Colorado, and Oklahoma learning his methods. 

The fact that this phenomenon is happening across the country worries experts like Hartwig.  

“Training in faulty tools is very bad … This will put innocent suspects at risk even more,” Hartwig said. “Police relying on these twitches and indicators of emotions, investigators playing the role of armchair psychoanalyst, is dangerous.”

According to comments left by the officers who attended the Round Rock class, many indeed believe that they learned valuable skills and are now able to recognize psychoanalytical tells of deception.

Officers provided statements such as, “Gave me better understanding on road side interview and how to detect lies” and “This class is not at all about trophy shots, the students leave the class and have knowledge of the tradecraft of clandestine activity along with what to identify during the roadside interview.”

Policing experts such as Jeff Kukucka, associate professor of psychology at Towson University and active researcher of police interrogation science, described how police taking on a sensationalized, armchair psychoanalyst role factors into the many issues in modern policing.

“We all view the world through our own lens, right? So if we see two people exhibiting the same behavior, and one of them fits our stereotype, whether personal or cultural, of a criminal or a terrorist … We’re going to interpret that behavior in a very different way.” Kukucka said. “We’re probably more likely to notice it in the first place, and then when we do notice that we’re more likely to deem it threatening.”

Pardazi isn’t the only expert voice out there teaching cops this questioned science.

Nationwide there exists a plethora of police courses that claim to be able to use science to read human behavior. 

In a recent article, the Intercept found a litany of material from these lie detection course resources. One of them was from Renee Ellory, who claims to be a human lie detector. According to Ellory, she was one of 50 individuals identified as an “expert in deception” as part of the Wizards Project, run by researchers associated with Ekman.

Ellory did not respond to a Daily Dot request for comment. 

But regardless of the accuracy of these methods, there’s no denying they are lucrative. 

Pardazi’s in-person courses such as Smugglers Inc. can cost $300 a person. Other courses, such as Ellory’s, can run up to $1,950 a person.

The Round Rock Police Department did not respond to inquiries from the Daily Dot about the costs it paid to host Pardazi or any other questions related to Pardazi.

“I think that these courses are so popular, because they dovetail so well with not only what people think to be true, but with what people want to be true, right?” Kukucka says “We want to be able to detect lies, and we want to believe that it is as easy as looking at a person’s nonverbal behavior. And then of course, when we pour several hundred into something, we’re highly motivated to think that that thing actually works.” 

We crawl the web so you don’t have to.
Sign up for the Daily Dot newsletter to get the best and worst of the internet in your inbox every day.
Sign up now for free
Share this article
*First Published: May 10, 2023, 10:19 am CDT