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Chapter 2

PSYC 3020 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Lewis Terman, Police Psychology, Domestic Disturbance

Course Code
PSYC 3020
Dan Yarmey

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Chapter 2 Police Psychology
Police work requires intelligent, creative, patient, ethical, caring, and hard-working
individuals so it’s important that those accepted for the job have highest potential for
Police selection procedures: set of procedures used by the police to either screen out
undesirable candidates or select in desirable candidates
- Desirable characteristics include physical fitness, cognitive abilities, personality,
and performance on various job-related tasks
Psychologists have been involved in police selection since early 20th century
Earliest example of psychologist involvement is Lewis Terman in 1917 who uses the
Stanford-Binet IQ test to determine a baseline IQ of 80 for future applicants
Mid-20th century was use of personality tests to predict police performance
Mid-1950s psychological/psychiatric screening of police applicants became a standard
part of the selection procedure
In 1960s and 70s major changes to police selection in the U.S. took place as a result of
two major events:
- 1967 U.S. president’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of
Justice recommended that police forces adopt a higher educational requirement
- 1973 U.S. National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and
Goals recommended that police agencies establish formal selection processes;
since then selection has become more formalized
Canada and U.S. have very similar selection procedures; all Canadian police agencies
conduct background checks and medical exams and most use a range of cognitive ability
and personality tests (ex. RCMP’s Police Aptitude Test or RPAT)
Other police agency selection procedures include selection interviews, drug testing,
physical agility tests, polygraph tests, and recommendation letters
The Police Selection Process
Generally, there are two separate stages to the selection process:
- Job analysis stage agency must define the knowledge, skills, and abilities
(KSAs) of a “good” police officer; an organizational psychologist working with a
police agency frequently conducts job analysis; range of techniques used
including observational methods and surveys; essential KSAs typically include
honesty, reliability, sensitivity to others, good communication, high motivation,
problem-solving skills, and being a team player

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- Problems with KSA analysis: different types of police officers will be
characterized by different KSAs (ex. KSAs describing an ideal police
constable will not be the same KSAs that describe an ideal police
- Individuals may also disagree with which KSAs are important
- Construction and validation stage agency must develop an instrument for
measuring the extent to which police applicants possess these KSAs and also
ensure that this instrument is valid (actually relates to measures of police
performance predictive validity)
- Problems with validation of measures most serious problem relates to
how we measure the performance of police officers; several measures
are used as indicators of job performance (# of times officer is late, # of
complaints against them, # of commendation received by an officer,
graduation from training academy, academy exam scores, performance
ratings by supervisors/peers)
The Validity of Police Selection Instruments
The Selection Interview:
- Interview used to determine the extent to which an applicant possesses the KSAs
deemed important in a job analysis
- One of the most common instruments used and are typically semi-structured with a
preset list of questions
- Research on validity of selection interviews is mixed some say they can be used
accurately to predict job performance while other researchers argue decisions made
on the basis of selection interviews can be problematic
- Inter-rater reliability changing the way the interview is constructed and conducted
can have a big impact on its validity
Psychological Tests:
- Cognitive Ability Tests procedures for measuring verbal, mathematical, memory,
and reasoning abilities; used commonly in Canada such as RPAT which measures
written composition, comprehension, memory, judgment, observation, logic, and
computation; these tests seem to be better predictors of performance during police
academy training rather than on-the-job performance
- Personality Tests most commonly used is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
Inventory (MMPI) which is a test originally designed to identify people who have
psychopathological problems including depression, paranoia, and schizophrenia;
because it was never designed to be a selection instrument predictive validity is low.
A personality test developed for police selection is the Inwald Personality Inventory
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