We expect a lot of police officers. We invest them with authority and issue firearms to them. We ask them to adhere to the highest standards of professionalism, integrity, forbearance and good judgement in situations most of us cannot imagine.
It is no wonder, then, that we take such pains to screen them properly.
After all, there is a lot at stake. Admitting individuals who are ill-suited to police work is not only a waste of training time and resources but it can introduce additional risk in terms of the safety of the public and the officers.
Screening law enforcement candidates is not easy, nor is it perfect. But our procedures have come a long way since I started conducting them back in 1979. Our sole focus used to be screening out candidates, such as those with mental health disorders or psycho-pathologies. Today, we look just as closely at competencies favouring success.
Calian Health helps numerous police forces across the country screen candidates. We also support federal departments and agencies such as Canada Border Services Agency, Parks Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Correctional Services Canada. In doing so we measure simultaneously for strengths and weaknesses using two of the most widely used psychometric tests in North American law enforcement: MMPI2 (Minnesota Multi-Phasic Personality Inventory 2) and 16PF (16 Personality Factor).
On the written psychometric test individuals are tested on a sliding scale in a variety of areas including adaptability; decisiveness; judgement; problem solving; emotional regulation; stress tolerance and management; substance abuse avoidance; and many other factors. Those demonstrating psychopathology or mental health issues are screened out.
Then comes the interview. Research shows that the interview is key to confirming or challenging conclusions reached in the psychometric test and providing greater overall reliability – or predictive quality – in the testing process.
The interview is conducted in two parts: one, a clinical follow-up on the written test; and, two, a structured stress interview. In the clinical follow-up we probe any concerns that have been identified in the psychometric test to understand whether any extraneous factors may have influenced the test score.
In the structured stress interview we ask the candidate to describe a stressful situation from their past and probe their emotional, behavioural and cognitive responses in the situation they are recalling. Research has shown that by asking them to recall a demanding, real-life situation we can read their probable level of tolerance to similar situations in the future.
Setting the bar high
Candidates, of course, are working hard to put their best foot forward. This can present challenges for testers. The combination of the psychometric test and the two-part interview helps identify inconsistencies where an individual could be attempting to distort the results.
Law enforcement officers have one of the most demanding roles in our society. The job has unusually high stressors. Public safety professionals can witness disturbing acts of violence, be threatened with physical harm and have to deal with violent criminals -- the kind of people you and I rarely encounter, if ever. As a society we must set the bar high. That’s why the ratio of rejected versus accepted candidates is higher than most graduate and professional schools in the country.
The screening process we use is formal, structured, empirically-based and defensible. While I would never purport it to be perfect, it provides strong assurances of an individual’s suitability for law enforcement, based on objective measures.
Dr. William J. Barker leads Calian’s psychological assessment services. He is former president of Priority One, acquired by Calian in 2018.
Blog: April 2019
Canada is not spared from the global rise in disasters, which are increasing in both severity and frequency. According to the Canadian Disaster Database, Canada has seen 195 major disasters between 2008 and 2018, including extreme heat, wildfires, drought, storms, floods and melting permafrost.
These and other events pose serious risks to our people, communities, economy and environment. Emergency Management (EM) programs have never been more important.
Calian has worked extensively with EM directors, program managers and executives across the country to bring our deep knowledge and experience in major event planning to EM assignments, and we always learn something new in the process. My aim here is to share some of that experience to help maximize the benefits and effectiveness of your program. Though it can be hard to quantify the benefits of EM in dollars and cents, I like the term return on investment (ROI) – it’s unambiguous.
ROI is an important consideration because the resources supporting EM programs are limited. Your community welfare depends on getting the best value from every dollar invested and, the reality is, EM programs carry risk. Risks include the possible consequences of program failure, such as reputational damage, loss of public confidence or, worse, loss of property or even lives. With ROI in mind, your goal continues to be improving community or organizational resilience. Maximizing ROI does not mean cutting costs -- it means maximizing your program’s effectiveness.
Four Pillars of EM
Updated in 2017, Public Safety Canada’s EM Framework has guided federal, provincial and territorial collaboration since 2007. Resilience, it says, is “the capacity of a system, community or society to adapt to disturbances resulting from hazards by persevering, recuperating or changing to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning.” Canada’s EM Framework has four pillars: prevention/mitigation; preparedness; response; and recovery. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
The first step in any program is to analyze the risks and hazards posed to your specific community or organization. This is foundational to prevention. For example, what hazards might your community or organization face as a result of proximity to freight trains, nuclear power generation, chemical plants or coastal areas?
Calian EM experts recently produced a report for the City of Whitehorse. It included our analysis of the greatest risks of catastrophe for the city. First and foremost was wildfire. Hazardous material accidents, major earthquakes and extreme cold were also identified. These conclusions were based on a careful and considered analysis and laid a foundation for Whitehorse’s EM program. We ranked key risks based on their likelihood, potential impacts, the ability of the community to recuperate, their effect on public confidence and other factors.
The prevention pillar’s risk and hazards analysis informs your emergency plan, which must be as clear and simple as possible. It is essential that EM response personnel clearly understand their roles and responsibilities.
So, how do you know if your plan is effective? Your highest ROI will depend on regular, consistent practice and training. Training should be progressive. Practice, practice, practice. Set your standard high and make a continuous effort to reach it over multiple years. Your training program does not need to be expensive. Start small, with discussions and workshops. Proceed to practice drills and functional exercises. Finally, hold periodic full-scale exercises. It’s critical that participants feel they are improving and succeeding with each exercise. Confidence is key.
Response and Recovery
This is when all the upfront work pays off. Before and during response it’s important to start your recovery planning. Team members should be assigned planning tasks such as where and how to house community members what government or relief programs could help them get home sooner, returning to a close-as-possible normal state.
Following an emergency event or an exercise, conducting a methodical review is key to improvement. When we speak of lessons learned we often mean “lessons collected.” It is important to document those lessons and put them to work through an action plan. Discuss, dissect and internalize them so that you can refine your EM program with any necessary changes to processes, structures or behaviours.
Emergency preparedness and response requires effective planning, program development, training and exercises. Following these steps within the four pillars of Canada’s EM Framework will help you make sure that your program is effective and your EM dollars are well spent.
Ian Becking is Director, Business Delivery, Calian Emergency Management Solutions. The Calian team of accredited experts provide a holistic suite of emergency management solutions tailored to the needs and capabilities of any organization.