Police recruitment requires careful screening processes.

Police recruitment requires careful screening processes. Image Source: Flickr CC user Victoria Pickering.

When I worked as an Investigations Manager for a Private Security Company, I often hired guards and investigators who were using these positions as stepping stones to careers in law enforcement. Even with my experience in the field, identifying the individuals best suited to these positions wasn’t always easy, especially knowing that many would eventually join the force. Working in law enforcement requires high ethical standards and a good sense of how to react under pressure, and those things don’t usually manifest during the hiring process, or even during the probationary period.

Because the role of police officers is changing—there’s more community engagement and diversity now than ever and a greater focus on positive action—finding the right candidates for the job is more important than ever. It all starts with the people who put on the uniform, but how can we know who the uniform will fit best? How can we be sure not to hire someone who’s likely to make a poor choice under pressure or escalate a situation in a dangerous way? Without best practices and state-of-the-art technology in place for the screening of new recruits, law enforcement opens itself to greater risk.

The Cost of Hiring the Rotten Apple

Those of us who have been in a hiring position know you can’t determine character through a resume, face-to-face interviews, or even through vetting processes. Motivated by even more calls for transparency and accountability in our police services, there is an increasing need for better practices in hiring and screening of new recruits.     

Consider the LAPD Rampart scandal which involved widespread corruption among over 70 police officers in the LAPD Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums (CRASH) anti-gang unit in the 1990’s. The list of offenses ranged from the planting of false evidence to unprovoked violence, theft, narcotics use, perjury, and cover-ups. The investigation into this corruption was ground-breaking in highlighting the vulnerabilities of a police agency caused by issues such as weak hiring practices and neglectful oversight.

Best practices in police recruitment, hiring, and screening have evolved since former LAPD Chief Daryl Gates admitted the flaws in the LAPD system. Many police departments are in a crunch to replace staff who are nearing retirement age. To hire for the new paradigm, it’s crucial to have the right tools in place. The cost of hiring the “rotten apple” is substantial:

  • Budget cuts across the nation have already put police resources under strain. Training a new recruit is an expensive task and a significant investment. When insufficient screening practices fail to highlight areas of deception on an application, that money goes straight down the drain.
  • It only takes one “rotten apple” to ruin the reputation of a police service. A tool which could be used as an adjunct to the interview process whether in the beginning stages of screening—or even during employment when issues arise—allows departments to properly evaluate a new or veteran employee if there is a need.
  • Police corruption and cover-ups break the public’s trust. A deviant subculture in policing can be dangerous to the public good. Follow-up studies of officers hired partly on the basis of MMPI test scores showed those scores changed over time as the stress of the job affected the officers’ mental health.
  • Legal costs to defend an officer or department or as compensation for a victim of police brutality affects not only the agency but the taxpayers served by the police services. A September 2, 2016 article in Police State Daily pointed to a study showing in the past five years “a combined $16.6 million was spent by taxpayers in just four cities alone to settle 122 police misconduct lawsuits.” By using cutting-edge technology to screen new recruits, the risk of financial burden is decreased and can be used for more effective training.

Truth Verification Tools for Best Practices in Hiring

Most police services have a rigorous application process which requires numerous tests, a background investigation, and interviews. The face of policing is changing, and soft skills such as the ability to communicate effectively, to have empathy, and to be able to work with diverse communities are often more important than the physical attributes of a candidate.

While one-on-one and panel interviews and psychological testing such as The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI/MMPI- 2)—the go-to test to assess personality and psychopathology—offer some insight and are good starting points, they are not enough for a full evaluation. A polygraph can be defeated by savvy individuals who know the right countermeasures. A comprehensive background investigation includes interviews with friends, family, and acquaintances, but these methods alone don’t tell the whole story of a person’s journey to becoming a police officer.  Friends may “forget” to mention that the recruit was a bully in high school. A former employer at a security firm may have had no problem with the candidate’s rough handling of a shoplifting suspect and not mention it. Across the board, at least one-third of people lie in a job interview, and even seasoned interviewers can’t catch every lie.

Adding another level of risk assessment through voice stress analysis technology allows you to increase your success rate in vetting new hires and overcoming the blue wall of silence that could potentially destroy the integrity of your agency. A Certified Voice Stress Analyst is highly trained in using scientifically proven technology to detect discrete changes in the human voice indicating stress. These small indications of stress often point toward deception, which frequently would go undetected by a human interviewer. Using the CVSA, an analyst can identify patterns of deception in police candidates.

The CVSA is scientifically proven to have a greater than 98% accuracy rate and as such is the ideal technology for screening individuals quickly and effectively. Our innovative technology allows you to integrate, layer, deploy, and analyze human risk data to protect your organization, and ultimately your community.

Please reach out to us at NITV Federal Services to learn more about our CVSA systems and training programs.