Week 2 - Police Psychology
• Police work is a multifaceted, complex,demanding, stressful and potentially dangerous
• Requires intelligent, creative,patient, ethical, caring and hard working individuals.
• The purpose of police selection is to ensure individuals meet this criteria.
○ This requires the use of valid police selection procedures that allow agencies to
effectivelyscreen out applicants who possess undesirable characteristics.
The Police Selection Process
• Regardless of how a police agency decides screen applicants, the general stages a force must
go through to develop a valid selection process are the same.
• In general terms, there are two separate stages in this process:
○ Stage 1: Job Analysis Stage
Agency must define the knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs) of a "good" police
○ Stage 2: Construction and Validation Stage
Agency must develop an instrument for measuring the extent to which police
applicants possess knowledge, skills and abilities.
Conducting a Job Analysis
• Identifying and defining the KSAs that describe a good police officer.
• Can be conducted by a psychologistthat uses formal methods, such as survey methods and
• Can be done informally by asking membersof the police force what makes up a good police
• Major problems with this method:
○ KSAs can change over time. Example: one year they can be "officers that are enthusiastic
and fit in well" and another they may be "officers who are stable and responsible"
○ Individuals may disagree over which KSAs are important.
• In the end, most officers agree on several KSAs:
○ Sensitivity to others
○ Good communicationskills
○ High motivation
○ Being a team player
Constructingand Validating Selection Instruments
• Goals of stage 2 of the police selection process:
○ To develop a selection instrument for measuring the extent to which police applicants
possess relevant KSAs (construction)
○ To ensure this instrument relates to measures of police performance (validation)
• The measure of validation that we are most interested in is referred to as predictive
validation. This refers to an ability to use a selectioninstrument to predict how applicants will
perform in the future: to determine if there is a relationship between scores obtained from a
selection instrument and measures of actual job performance.
○ Example: scores on a test of decision making under stress. The results of this test are
compared with a measure of job performance.
• If the selection data accurately predict job performance,then the selection instrument is said
to have predictive validity.
• Potential problems with validation research in the area of police selection:
○ There is no one agreed-upon way to assess indicators of job performance. Is it the
number of times an officer is late? Whether or not they graduate from police academy?
○ Research suggests that a different picture of performance can emerge depending on
what measure is used. Example: measures of performanceduring training often do not what measure is used. Example: measures of performanceduring training often do not
generalize to on-the-job performance.
The Validity of Police Selection Instruments
• Some instruments already in use:
The Selection Interview
• One of the most commonselection instruments used by police.
• Typically a semi-structuredinterview, interviewerhas a pre-set list of questions that are asked
of each applicant.
• For a tool that is so widely used, there is relatively little research examining the predictive
validity of the selection interviewin the policing context.
○ Research that does exist has mixed reviews.
○ Many police researchers remain cautious about their use.
○ Changing the way the interview is constructed and conducted changes its validity.
Example: the more structured an interview is, the more likely it can be used to predict
future job performance.
• In addition to the interview, psychological tests are also commonlyused by police agencies to
select suitable officers.
• Useful in deciding whether a person possessescertain attributes.
• CognitiveAbility Tests
○ Procedure for measuring verbal, mathematical,memoryand reasoning abilities.
○ In general, reliance on CATs is supported by research.
○ Appear moreuseful for predicting job performanceduring police academy training
compared with performanceon the job.
○ Personality variables also play a large role in determining job success.
• Personality Tests
○ Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory - an assessmentfor identifying people
with psychological problems.
Not specific to law enforcement.
○ Personality tests are associated with higher levels of predictive validity.
○ Inwald Personality Inventory has shown higher levels of predictive validity.
Measures their personality attributes and behaviour patterns.
Developedspecifically for law enforcement.
Better at predicting officer performance than MMPI.
○ A facility in which the behaviour of police applicants can be observedin a number of
situations by multiple observers.
○ Primary selectioninstrument used is the situation test which involves simulations of
real-world policing tasks.
○ Trained observers evaluate how applicants perform during these tasks.
○ Situations attemptto tap into the KSAs identified as part of the job analysis.
○ Some research suggests situational tests have moderate levels of predictive validity.
• Many of the qualities deemed necessary for success as a police officer have to do with the
applicant being adaptable, having commonsense, possessing effective decision-makingskills
and being a good problem solver.
• Police discretion is a policing task that involvesdiscriminating between circumstances that
require absolute adherence to the law and circumstances where a degree of latitude is
• Researchers are interested in whether police discretion is really necessary,the sorts of
situations in which discretion is used, and ways of controlling the inappropriate use of police
Why is Police DiscretionNecessary?
• Police officers cannot and do not enforce the law all the time.
• It is impossible to establish laws that encompass every possible situation an officer might • It is impossible to establish laws that encompass every possible situation an officer might
encounter and therefore a degree of discretion is inevitable.
• Other reasons for police discretion:
○ A police officer who attemptsto enforce all the laws all the time would be in the police
station and in the court all the time and would be of little use when serious problems
arise in the community.
○ Legislatures pass laws that they do not intend to have strictly enforced all the time.
○ Legislatures pass laws that are vague and police officers must interpret them.
○ Most law violations are minor in nature and do not require full enforcementof the law.
○ Full enforcementof all the laws all the time would overwhelm the criminal justice
○ Full enforcementof