Choosing The Proper Assessments

David M. Corey, Ph.D., ABPP presented Assessment Protocols, Procedures & Pass Rates for Psychological Evaluations of Police Candidates at the October 2016 IACP meeting in San Diego. This was a national survey of psychological testing used in the selection of Police officers. Doctors Cochrane, Tett and Vandecreek had completed a similar survey which was published in the October 2003 journal Criminal Justice and Behavior. Small medium and large agencies were included. There were a number of differences as the field has changed quite a bit since 2003 and will focus only on the more recent information at this time.

A total of 1572 agencies were included in the survey sample. About a third of the psychologist worked for a single agency while two thirds provided services for multiple agencies. Candidate sample size ranged from 30 to 50,127 with a median of 371 and a mean of 2152. About 25% of the psychologists had more than 30 years experience providing such evaluations and half have had more than 16 years of experience. About 35% had completed more than 10,000 evaluations with about 11% performing between 5000 and 10,000 evaluations and about 39% performing between 1000 and 5000 evaluations. Over 80% were members of the American Psychological Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Over 76% were members of the IACP Police Psychological Services Section and over 60% were members of the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology. About half were board certified specialists by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).

While the sample was quite well represented nationally, over 78% utilize the California POST dimensions which have quickly become a de facto standard in the field. Applicant evaluations should include a measure of normal personality, abnormal personality, background information and clinical interview at a minimum. About a third of assessors also include a measure of cognitive function.

As a measure of normal personality, about 43% utilize the California Psychological Inventory where specific Police and Public Safety selection norms are available. The 16 PF, M-PULSE and NEO-PI-R were also utilized by some practitioners.

As a measure of abnormal personality, about 45% utilized the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Second Edition-Restructured Form (MMPI-2-RF). About 38% utilized the older MMPI-2 with remaining assessors utilizing the Personality Assessment Inventory, 16 PF, Inwald Personality Inventory, Inwald Personality Inventory 2, Hilson Background Investigation Inventory Revised and the Hilson Life Adjustment Profile.

Background information was received through agency provided background investigation findings by 57% of assessors while another 27% utilized the Psychological History Questionnaire (PsyQ) and 66% used a customized or proprietary personal history questionnaire. Some assessors received background information only through the clinical interview.

The length of the clinical interview was between 30 and 45 minutes for about 43% of assessors and between 45 and 60 minutes for another 43% of assessors with the remainder taking either longer or shorter time to complete interview process and 92% of assessors only completed a clinical interview after having adequate time to review the psychological testing results.

Over 80% of assessors provided a two point grading scale on the order of either recommended or not recommended. With the current laws in both Kansas and Missouri, an applicant is either recommended after a conditional offer or not. Multiple categories including nominal ratings of A-F or 1-5 are meaningless from a legal perspective and simply confuse or lead to additional difficulties in the future. 

93% provided a written report of findings in narrative form. While this can differ greatly among departments, the national recommend rate was about 84% with about 16% not being recommended. The 2003 sample showed a 79% recommend rate with a 21% not being recommended.

In summary, the California POST psychological screening dimensions are widely used not only in California but another jurisdictions as well. [cf. Brown v. Sandy City Appeal Board,

2014 UT App 158 (Utah Ct. of Appeals, 2014)]. The majority of psychologists in the 2016 survey conform to the standard of practice with regard to administering both a test of normal (80%) and abnormal (100%) personality functioning, conducting a clinical interview of at least 30 minutes after viewing the results of psychological testing (92%) and not disqualifying a candidate on the basis of a single test score (95%).

It is also of note that while the Americans with Disabilities Act clearly prohibits a psychological evaluation without a conditional offer of employment having been made, 12% of the assessors in 2003 were willing to conduct such evaluations without a conditional offer of employment. No psychologist in the 2016 survey was willing to provide anything than post conditional offer psychological evaluations. However, it is noted that about 83% of the participants were members of a national Police psychology organization and about half were board certified (only about 3% of psychologists nationwide are board certified). This was also a very experienced group with 82% having conducted more than 1000 pre-employment psychological evaluations of police candidates.

What is very clear is that our psychologists are solidly in the mainstream with the practice of other very experienced, board certified and nationally active psychologists in the area of Police and Public Safety. We only conduct post-offer pre-employment psychological evaluations and we utilize assessments that are widely utilized by experienced practitioners in the field. We utilize the California POST dimensions in our reports and findings.