Police/law enforcement and psychology

  • Published on

  • View

  • Download


<ul><li><p>Police/Law Enforcement and Psychology </p><p>Eric Ostrov, J.D., Ph.D. </p><p>The number of areas of interface between psychology and law enforcement has grown sharply in the past few decades. At the same time the field of law enforcement-related psychology has acquired increased knowledge and so- phisticalion based on extensive research and practical experience. Areas of interface between law enforcement and psychology include selection of police oflcer candidates; Jitness-for-duty evaluahons; prevention and treatment of stress-related disorders; hostage negotiation; psychological profiling of terror- ists and mass murderers; and eyewitness testimony. Trends and developments in these areas are surveyed in this article. </p><p>INTRODUCTION </p><p>In 1967 the Presidents Commission on Law Enforcement and the Adminis- tration of Justice wrote a comprehensive report on police organizations and personnel in the United States (Presidents Commission, 1967). That report mentioned the role of psychology in only one context: selection of police recruits. As described in that work even that role was limited. In 1955, a survey showed that only 14 cities with a population over 100,000 had formal programs for psychiatric or psychological testing of police applicants. Selection methods used were heterogeneous, ranging from clinical interviews to administration of Min- nesota Multiphasic Personality Inventors (MMPIs) to group Rorschachs. A 1961 survey showed that only about 15% of the local agencies contacted screened their candidates for emotional fitness routinely (Presidents Commission 1967). In 1965, 27% of surveyed agencies conducted some kind of psychological eval- uation of police applicants. </p><p>In 1973, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals advised that every police agency should employ a formal process for the selection of qualified police applicants. Based on a nationwide survey, Goldstein (1975) reported that 42 of 46 responding states used some form of psychologicaI screening for police hiring. </p><p>In 1985, psychological screening of police officer candidates was made man- </p><p>Eric Ostrov, J.D., Ph.D. is Director, Police Evaluation Project, Section on Psychiatry and The Law, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Lukes Medical Center, Chicago and Associate Professor Psychology, Rush Medical College. Correspondence and reprint requests should be addressed to: Eric Ostrov, J.D., Ph.D.. Isaac Roy Center, 104 S. Michigan Ave.. Suite 1220, Chicago, IL 60603. </p><p>Behavioral Sciences &amp; the Law, Vol. 4, NO. 4, pp. 353-370 (1986) 8 1986 John Wiley &amp; Sons, Inc. CCC0735-3936/86/040353-18$04.00 </p></li><li><p>354 Ostrov: Police Law Enforcement and Psychology </p><p>datory in California. A Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commis- sion regulation stated, Peace officer applicants shall be judged to be free from job-relevant psychopathology . . . as diagnosed by a qualified professional . . . (Hargrave &amp; Berner, 1984). POST regulations state that, psychological suita- bility shall be determined on the basis of objective psychological test score information which has been interpreted by a qualified professional (Hargrave and Berner, 1984). According to Behrens (1985), 11 states currently mandate police and correctional officer screening by statute. </p><p>Fabricatone (1979) details legal cases such as Allen v . The City ofLos Angeles and Bonsignore v. the City of N a v York (from 1976 and 1981, respectively) which held that a municipality may be responsible for ascertaining the potential for dangerous behavior of any its employees including police officers. In 1978, the United States Supreme Court held that municipalities are responsible for the wrongful actions of their employees (presumably including unwarranted police actions) under some circumstances. According to Meredith (1984), there were more than 20,000 cases pending against municipalities for police officer un- warranted violence and its consequences with the result that some cities are refusing to write policies that protect the police financially against . . . judgements. </p><p>While the role psychologists play in augumenting police officer selection was expanding, there was an increase in the number of other areas of interface between psychology and law enforcement. As will be shown in this article these areas of interface range from psychotherapeutic interventions on behalf of police of- ficers to profiling the psychological functioning of mass murderers. In addition, the field of police psychology or law enforcement-related forensic psychology has been maturing as a separate discipline. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has played a key role in these developments, both through independent contri- butions and sponsoring conferences that foster the professional growth of the field. The National Symposium on Police Psychological Services and the World Conference on Police Psychology sponsored by the FBI in 1984 and 1985, respectively, are notable examples. Topics covered in these conferences ranged from police officer selection to peer counseling. In 1985 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) sponsored a meeting in Skiathos, Greece that fo- cused on law enforcement-related psychological issues such as hostage negoti- ation techniques and eyewitness testimony research. In recent years the Police Psychology Section of Division 18 of the American Psychological Association has become increasingly active and well organized. The International Association of Chiefs of Police formed a standing Police Psychology Committee in 1985. Attempts are being made to write standards for psychological practice at the interface between law enforcement and psychology (Inwald, 1984). It is under- standable why Robert Loo, Chief Psychologist of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, wrote, the field of police psychology is relatively new, but is maturing rapidly since its birth in the late 1960s. (Loo, 1986). Psychologists and other mental health professionals have become involved in almost every aspect of law enforcement. The growth of the branch of psychology concerned with law en- </p><p>BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES &amp; THE LAW </p></li><li><p>Ostrov: Police Law Enforcement and Psychology 355 </p><p>forcement has been marked by widening application, increased and better re- search, and rapidly growing expertise. </p><p>APPLICATIONS OF PSYCHOLOGY TO LAW ENFORCEMENT </p><p>Selection of Law Enforcement Personnel </p><p>The Task Force on Police of the Presidents Commission on Law Enforcement stated, The emotional stability to withstand the stressors of police work must, of necessity, be a primary requisite of police personnel. Officers must rationally cope with violence, verbal abuse, resentment, and emergency. The emotionally unfit cannot meet these stressors. The Task Force concluded, Psychological tests, such as the MMPI, and interviews to determine emotional stability should be conducted by all departments (Presidents Commission, 1967). </p><p>The history of the involvement of psychology with police recruit selection has been one of increasing refinement and skill not just increased extent of utilization. Reviews of the use of psychological tests to screen police candidates are found in Burbeck and Fumham (1983, Poland (1978), and Hargrave and Berner (1984). Early attempts at psychological screening involved a wide variety of approaches backed by a minimum of validational research. Thus, an attempt was made to use the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale as a selection device for screening police recruit applicants (Humm &amp; Humm, 1950). Little validation data had been brought to bear regarding use of this test. Similarly, interviews used in the early days of psychological evaluation of candidates, have been criticized as having little empirical backing (Hargrave &amp; Bemer, 1984). Projective tests such as the Sentence Completion Test (Johnson, 1983) and the Rorschach (Blum, 1964) have been used in police selection with mixed results (See also Burbeck &amp; Furnham, 1985). While intelligence is certainly a factor in being a good police officer, use of I.Q. tests to screen recruits presents the danger of adverse impact on minority group members (Gordan, 1969). </p><p>Experience with psychological evaluation of police recruit candidates has brought increased sophistication to this field (Green, 1982; Hargrave &amp; Kohls, 1984). Researchers are now aware that when trying to validate selection pro- cedures a complex model must be used that addresses factors such as (1) outcome criteria, (2) possible disparate impact of selection procedures on various groups- particularly minorities and other suspect classifications (Hargrave &amp; Hiatt, 1986), and (3) restriction of range problems due to not hiring candidates who perform most poorly on the selection procedures and, therefore, are not available when outcome data are gathered (Spielberger, Ward, &amp; Spaulding, 1979). The outcome criteria problem is a particularly difficult one. Supervisors ratings, for instance, may reflect nonjob factors such as friendship patterns (Poland, 1984). Other difficulties concern the fact that test validation studies must be specific to the situation of candidates being screened for employment; other groups (for </p><p>VOL. 4. NO. 4 1986 </p></li><li><p>356 Ostrov: Police Law Enforcement and Psychology </p><p>instance, officers already in the field) would have a different set while taking the tests for instance, and would be less likely to fake good (Burbeck &amp; Furnham, 1984; Snibbe et al., 1976; Saccuzor, Higgins, &amp; Lewandowski, 1974; Thurber, 198 1). Psychological screening can be directed toward identifying po- tentially successful officers (Baehr, Furcan, &amp; Froemel, 1968; Fabricatore et al., 1978) or toward eliminating aberrant individuals (Burbeck &amp; Furnham, 1985). Picking the potentially most successful officer is particularly difficult in large departments in light of the diverse nature of police work and police roles available in these settings. Increasing recognition will have to be given to the fact that police work is not homogeneous, with forces being rural or urban and ranging from a few persons to many thousands; within a large urban department police work can involve investigations, aggressive street work, or filing papers in addition to many other roles (Burbeck &amp; Furnham, 1985). Different tests or at least different criteria may be appropriate for all these different types of departments and positions. </p><p>The state of the art in police selection currently involves using the most highly validated tests or procedures in conjunction with an analysis of the cost require- ments of the hiring agency. The most comprehensive survey conducted thus far (Hargrave &amp; Berrfer, 1984) indicates that the MMPI and the California Psycho- logical Inventory (CPI) are the most validated psychological tests for police candidate selection. The MMPI is also the most frequently used and probably best-validated non-projective test (Butcher, 1979; Burbeck &amp; Fumham, 1985; Johnson, 1983). Recent studies supporting the validity of the MMPI for police selection purposes include those by Sachs (1980), Bernstein, Schanfeld and Costello (1982), Beutler, et al. (1985), Inwald and Shuman (1984), and Hargrave (1985). The validity of the CPI has been studied by Hortsman (1977) and Hogan and Kurtines (1975). The 16 PF also has been identified as a valid test for psychological screening purposes (Fabricatore et al., 1978). A test developed more recently for the specific purpose of selecting law enforcement officers, the Inwald Personality Inventory (IPI) (Inwald, Knadz, &amp; Shusman, 1983) has begun to accumulate a great deal of substantiating validational research (Inwald &amp; Shusman, 1984; Inwald, Shusman &amp; Landa, 1984; Brobst &amp; Brock, 1984; Ostrov &amp; Cavanaugh, 1986). It should be pointed out, however, that there have been some dissenting voices raised about the effectiveness of psychological tests in the screening of future police officers (Levy, 1976; Lester et al., 1980). Mills and Stratton (1982) concluded that the MMPI is not a useful predictor of success in law enforcement based on a comparison between MMPI scores at time of hire and a variety of subsequent performance measures. There was no evidence to support the MMPI as a predictor of police performance. </p><p>Aside from psychological tests, interviews, polygraphs, and situational tests are effective and useful (Brobst &amp; Brock, 1984; Dunette &amp; Motowidlo, 1976; OLeary, 1975; Reinke, 1977; Landy, 1976; Filer, 1979; Mills, 1976; Kent, Wall, &amp; Bailey, 1974; Pugh, 1985; Chenoweth, 1961; Gaines &amp; Lewis, 1982; Mills, McDavitt and Tomkin). But, these are more expensive than are objective psychological tests and proof of the necessity of their use as a supplement to </p><p>BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES &amp; THE LAW </p></li><li><p>Ostrov: Police Law Enforcement and Psychology 357 </p><p>objective tests awaits further empirical validation. Presently, a small department hiring at most a few officers a year could justify the cost of obtaining the extensive cross-validational information provided by using a wide variety of assessment methods. Large departments hiring as many as several thousand recruits in a year might conclude that using a wide variety of methods is prohibitively ex- pensive and that use of psychological tests in addition to only a few other assessment techniques, such as a background investigation and an interview, is sufficient. </p><p>Fitness for Duty Evaluations </p><p>Suprisingly little has been written about one of the key functions of the police psychologist; the mandatory fitness-for-duty evaluation. A mandatory fitness- for-duty evaluation involves a clinical assessment that has been ordered by the police department or other responsible officials (Ostrov, Nowicki, &amp; Beazley, 1985). The evaluation is conducted against a background of concern or claims regarding an officers ability to function adequately on full active duty. </p><p>Fitness-for-duty evaluations present difficulties for all parties involved (Saxe- Clifford, 1986). From the administrators point of view, the officer being eval- uated may pose a serious risk to the public, fellow officers, or himself. The officer, if he is maintaining that he is not impaired, may feel his career is at stake or, if he is claiming serious impairment, may feel that he may not receive the help he needs. Issues of potential liability surround this evaluation. If an administrator delays obtaining the evaluation of an officer showing signs of emotional disturbance, the department could engender liability if that officer later acts in a destructive way. If the officer is ordered to undergo an evaluation and is found unfit for duty he could litigate, claiming unfair deprivation of his right to earn a living. If he is found fit for duty despite his contending he is too emotionally ill to work, he could litigate under Workman Compensation laws or through claims centering on rights to medical benefits. </p><p>For the mental health professional conducting these evaluations the challenge is to make a recommendation that is fair, adequate, and specific in t...</p></li></ul>


View more >