Background Screening for Law Enforcement
By Adam Decker, VP Marketing −
Police agencies in Colorado require background screening, including psychological evaluations, to determine a candidate’s readiness for duty. Questionable behaviors include lying, a lack of anger management, repressed hostility, problems with authority, and mental health issues (including psychosis).
Red Flags in Background Screening
Candidates who lie in interviews wave a major red flag at employers. Although it’s typical to boast about positive attributes and to downplay weaknesses in a job interview, candidates with extreme tendencies in this area may tend to “exaggerate” under other circumstances as well.
When the tendency to express impulsive anger sits on the table, interviewers must consider the candidate a ticking time bomb. No police force wants to put someone with this attribute in high-stress situations. The nature of this job is often infuriating, so psychologists must attempt to evaluate an individual’s ability to manage and control anger in any situation.
Repressed hostility manifests itself as denial and suppression and can be as dangerous as unrestrained anger. When repressed hostility simmers in an individual for an extended period of time, it often rears its head in uncontrollable and explosive behavior.
Paranoia, delusional thinking, severe anxiety, psychosis, and extreme mood disorders are all examples of mental disorders that could prove truly harmful to a law enforcement officer and to those they protect and serve. These behaviors distort a person’s perception of reality and put them at risk of losing control of their thoughts and emotions.
A law enforcement officer that has issues with authority presents a great challenge. If an individual struggles to obey and respect authority, they often display a higher proclivity for bending and breaking the rules.
All of these conditions push the limits of public safety, which is unacceptable.
Predicting With Accuracy
Of course, a psychologist can’t predict with 100% accuracy that an individual will be a danger or will act out of line in the future, but they can categorize applicants into different levels of risk based on the results of these evaluations.
Law enforcement agencies in Colorado use these estimates as one part of the decision-making process when hiring from a pool of applicants. Other measures are also used.
EyeDetect is an emerging technology that could help with background screening. It monitors the movement of the examinee’s eyes to detect deception with 85 percent accuracy. Such a technology could prove invaluable to psychological examiners.