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ANALYSIS OF POLICE SELECTION 1

The aim of this report is to assess Thompson Valley’s new police Commissioner,

Jason DeVillian’s, proposal to increase police strength (increasing the number of police

officers) He proposes that to double police recruit intake numbers over the next three years,

two changes will be made to the current selection process. Firstly, police recruit applicants

will no longer require completion or partial completion of tertiary education upon entry. The

second change is psychological testing will be removed from the selection process. This

report will analyse these two proposed changes and, using empirical evidence, assess the

validity and likely impact of these changes on the police recruitment selection process. This

report will also assess if there would be any unintended consequences that emerge because of

these policy changes. This report will also use empirical research to examine whether these

changes will help the Commissioner’s intended goal of doubling the size of the police recruit

intake. Lastly, this report will summarise the evidence presented and give recommendations

based on the findings of this report and about whether these proposed changes will have a

negative impact on the future of police.

There has always been debates and arguments surrounding the topic of police officers

having tertiary qualifications before they join the police force. Tertiary qualifications among

police recruits have had a positive impact on the community and the police officers

themselves. In a study conducted by Paoline and Terrill (2007), They found that police

officers with tertiary qualifications were found to use significantly less verbal and physical

force than their co-workers with only a high school education. The officers with a tertiary

education would use verbal commands more often and use threats of force less often than

those without tertiary education. Terrill and Ingram (2016) found that out of 8 police

departments, excessive force and discourtesy was the most frequent complaint, with 42% of

citizen complaints were for allegations of excessive force. Furthermore, the officers that

citizens complained against stating excessive force, were found to have little experience in
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the police, and their highest education attained was a high school diploma. Not only does

tertiary education improve the communities experience with dealing with officers, but tertiary

education improves life and professional skills for police officers. As Roberg and Bonn

(2004) point out, perhaps tertiary education among police officers wasn’t required 30 years

ago, but in this day and age, with rapid technological advancement, increased threat of

domestic terrorism and a quickly changing social landscape, police are now having to deal

with issues that were not around 30 years ago. Modern-day police officers have to deal with a

dynamic and complex role, dictating that the benefits of tertiary education are required to

manage the demands of everyday policing. Christopher (2015) stated that police officers with

tertiary education prepares them for this diverse role and concluded with tertiary education

produces future officers who are competent and capable in this ever-changing challenge of

policing.

The impact of having tertiary qualifications within the police force is positive,

enhancing communities experience and increasing police professionalism. There are far more

benefits of having tertiary educated officers than those without qualifications. These officers

tend to outperform their co-workers with no qualifications. While the impact of not needing

tertiary qualifications among police officers would not be noticeable to begin with, as Flores

and Matkin (2012) discusses, with the exponential growth of mass casualty threats and events

in which require a modern-day level of critical thinking and advanced policing to be

effectively dealt with, these critical thinking skills are more apparent in those with tertiary

qualifications.

Unquestionably, police officers do have a unique job role; not one case is exactly like the

other. Police often do encounter stressful and often challenging situations, so when seeking

out candidates for the role, there must be strong and compelling reasons for the careful
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selection of future police officers; thus an assessment of candidates include psychological

testing. Police can use psychological assessment to screen unfit candidates, searching for

mental illnesses, being prone to violent outbursts, an inability to deal with stressful situations

and potential for substance abuse (Varela, Boccaccini, Scogin, Stump, & Caputo, 2004) The

most common test is known as the five-factor model (FFM) (Ono, Sachau, Deal, Englert, &

Taylor, 2011) the five-factor model contains five personality characteristics which include

neuroticism, agreeableness, extraversion, conscientiousness and openness. Best entry officers

were those with high levels of conscientiousness and extraversion, average levels of

agreeableness and openness and low levels of neuroticism. Detrick and Chibnall (2006)

found using the results from an FFM test; the findings concluded that the best entry-level

police officers were emotionally controlled, slow to anger, socially assertive and highly

conscientious. This study provided evidence suggesting that certain personality

characteristics of high-performing entry-level recruits. This was also supported by

Ashkanasy, Bowen, Rohde, and Wu (2007) who assessed employees test scores from

different organizations. They found that those who score well on these tests will receive

fewer complaints, involved in fewer incidents at work. They were also highly regarded by

their superiors. As mentioned previously, psychological testing in the selection process can

also highlight those who would be unfit for the police force, as they have personality

tendencies that would not work well with the policing role. Corruption within the police force

is a severe problem for many police departments with researchers suggesting the best way of

intervention would be a pre-employment psychological assessment to assess antisocial

behavioural tendencies within recruits. (Arrigo & Claussen, 2003) Furthermore, Arrigo and

Claussen (2003) conclude that the five-factor model would greatly improve the selection

process within law enforcement. They suggest that if the FFM was utilised, and police
ANALYSIS OF POLICE SELECTION 4

recruiters found recruits who were high on the conscientious measure and low on antisocial

tendencies, then the overall rate of corruption within police would decline.

The impact of not requiring psychological testing in the selection process would have

a detrimental impact on the future of police. By using psychological testing in the selection

process, recruiters will be able to assess future police officers by comparing their personality

characteristics against high-performing entry-level recruits and thus being able to assess

potential performance indicators. Furthermore, investigators also suggest that psychological

testing in the recruitment stage is needed for officers to be able to deal successfully with the

psychological and emotional stressors that the police role entails. (Arrigo & Claussen, 2003)

By removing the necessity for completion or partial completion of tertiary education

upon entry and removing psychological testing from the selection process, would the number

of police recruits be doubled over the next three years? When looking at tertiary

qualifications, if they are not needed to join the police force, more women and minority

candidates are more likely to be included in the recruit intake. A study from (Kay Decker,

2002) found that raising educational requirements for police would eliminate a large number

of traditionally successful police applicants. To be a traditionally successful police applicant,

recruits needed to pass a physical, have a high school diploma and pass a

medical/psychological test. They found that 65.3% of successful applicants would be

eliminated because of the lack of a degree. Additionally, the effect on racial diverse groups

would be higher as 76.9% of them did not have a degree. Females would be affected with

67.6% not having a degree. In 2015, 25% of police officers were female, and only 5% of

police were Aboriginal (Sarre & Prenzler, 2016) Australia has taken significant steps forward

in the policing of diversity, however as proven above, if police require tertiary qualifications

the diversity among police recruits would be negatively affected. As such, by not requiring
ANALYSIS OF POLICE SELECTION 5

tertiary qualifications, the police recruitment numbers would be increased, and diversity

within police would also be significantly improved.

What impact does psychological testing on recruits have on recruit numbers? A study

from Ryan, Sacco, McFarland, and Kriska (2000) found that from an extensive study of 3,550

applicants, 42% withdrew themselves after being presented with a form of psychological

testing. A further 20% failed the psychological testing, and only 38% of the original

applicants passed the testing (1,351). From this study, it is clear to state that physiological

testing does have some impact on recruitment numbers. In 2018, in New Zealand, there were

22,993 people who applied to join the police force. Out of those who applied, only 1503

applicants were recruited as the rest either failed the initial vetting or psychometric and

personality testing. (Stewat, 2018) It can be clearly seen that the psychologic testing does

have a negative impact on the number of potential recruits. Thus, by removing the

psychological testing in the selection process, while it would be quite hard to confirm exactly

if it would double the police force in three years, it has been proven that by removing this

process the volume of recruits would increase within three years.

Recommendations

It can be stated then, as logic suggests, that as the requirements are raised, the

opportunity for becoming a police officer would be available for fewer people. By removing

these requirements, it would have the opposite effect, and more people would have the

opportunity to join the police force. However, if the proposed changes are put into place, it

can be expected that there will be an increase in police recruit numbers. However, there is a

reasonable chance that due to the lack of requirements, the quality of successful applicants

would be decreased.
ANALYSIS OF POLICE SELECTION 6

It would be recommended that psychological testing would be mandatory in the recruitment

stage. Based off evidence from Detrick and Chibnall, (2006) Ashkansey et al. (2007) and

Arrigo and Claussen (2003) psychological testing can screen unfit candidates, find best entry-

level candidates faster and more efficiently, have a better impact on the community and

significantly reduce corruption in police. Thereby, going off from the evidence, removing

psychological testing would have a negative impact on the future of police.

If tertiary qualifications were to be obtained before joining the police force, evidence

suggests that police have a better impact on the community by using less physical force and

rely more on verbal commands. (Paoline & Terrill, 2007) more likely to have a better citizen

satisfaction with the police (Terrill & Ingram, 2016) and having the ability to be competent

and capable in the face of new and emerging threats that occur frequently due to rapid

technological advancement and changing the social landscape. (Roberg & Bonn, 2004)

However, evidence also suggests that removing tertiary qualifications from the recruitment

process will improve diversity (Sarre & Prenzler, 2016) which is much needed in

communities.

Therefore, based on empirical evidence, it would be recommended that psychological

testing and tertiary qualifications should be a requirement when in the recruitment selection

process. By removing these requirements, it increases the chances of poor policing and

ultimately will damage the reputation of the police force and negatively impact the wider

community. However, it would also be recommended that if police recruit numbers do

become increasingly low because of these additional requirements, it would be recommended

that the tertiary qualifications requirement would be removed, as it also brings more diversity

within the police force.


ANALYSIS OF POLICE SELECTION 7

It is difficult to conclude the exact impact on numbers if these requirements were to

be removed. Without definitive numbers, it could not be confirmed that the number of

recruits would be doubled in the next three years. However, it can be confirmed that the

overall number of recruits would increase somewhat. Regardless, as this report has identified,

the removal of both tertiary education requirements and psychological testing would be

imprudent. With what both bring to the police force, in terms of improving the overall quality

of the police and removing the possibility of damaging the police reputation are valid enough

reasons not to remove these requirements.


ANALYSIS OF POLICE SELECTION 8

References

Arrigo, B. A., & Claussen, N. (2003). Police Corruption and Psychological Testing: A
Strategy for Preemployment Screening. 47(3), 272-290.
doi:10.1177/0306624x03047003003
Ashkanasy, N., Bowen, P. L., Rohde, F. H., & Wu, C. Y. A. (2007). The Effects of User
Characteristics on Query Performance in the Presence of Information Request
Ambiguity. 21(1), 53-82. doi:10.2308/jis.2007.21.1.53
Christopher, S. (2015). The Quantum Leap: Police Recruit Training and the Case for
Mandating Higher Education Pre-entry Schemes. Policing: A Journal of Policy and
Practice, 9(4), 388-404. doi:10.1093/police/pav021 %J Policing: A Journal of Policy
and Practice
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performing entry-level police officers. Psychological Services, 3(4), 274-285.
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Flores, K., & Matkin, G. (2012). Deficient Critical Thinking Skills among College Graduates:
Implications for leadership. 44(2), 212-230. doi:10.1111/j.1469-5812.2010.00672.x
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too many women and minority candidates be excluded? Policing: An International
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Paoline, E. A., III, & Terrill, W. (2007). Police Education, Experience, and the Use of Force.
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Ryan, A., Sacco, J., McFarland, L., & Kriska, S. (2000). Applicant self-selection: Correlates
of withdrawal from a multiple hurdle process. The Journal of applied psychology, 85,
163-179. doi:10.1037//0021-9010.85.2.163
Sarre, R., & Prenzler, T. (2016). Ten key developments in modern policing: an Australian
perspective. Police Practice and Research, 1-14.
doi:10.1080/15614263.2016.1242424
Stewat, M. (2018). The right stuff: 23,000 applied to be cops over the past four years, just
1500 made the cut NZ
Terrill, W., & Ingram, J. R. (2016). Citizen Complaints against the Police: An Eight City
Examination. Police Quarterly(2), 150-179.
Varela, J. G., Boccaccini, M. T., Scogin, F., Stump, J., & Caputo, A. (2004). Personality
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