If you have been a reader of my blogs for awhile you will have noticed that I have very strong opinions on the subject of standards for police officers. You may know that we are required to have a license from the state to practice our profession. We are required to attend a police academy, study required subjects and pass a comprehensive test. The last step to becoming licensed is to be hired by a department who then activates the license.
Being hired by a department is a serious matter. The cities that hire officers are required by law to perform some steps before hiring. One is to do a comprehensive background investigation. We do that using a private investigator so that we have a 3rd party evaluation of individual. We look for a clean record, and other kinds of things that should exclude a person like evidence of lying or biased behavior. Because history repeats itself. If they have done it in their past it is likely that they will do it in their future. Why would we choose to take a chance? Our duty is to the community not to any police applicant.
The other very important step is the psychological evaluation. It is required in Michigan. We use a specially trained psychologist to evaluate each candidate in an entire day of testing and interview. We need to know who they are as a person and rule out any troubled individuals. But like Colorado, despite the fact that it is required many cities save money by asking the medical doctor to sign the form certifying the individual. No testing, no pysch interview, nothing. It is just a sidelight during the physical examination. I guess if they don’t offer to harm the doctor or a member of the staff that is good enough for the signature.
But the licensing agency, MCOLES, doesn’t have power to challenge those. You might recall that I am a commissioner so I have some knowledge of these issues. We have some bills before the Legislature right now as we have had over a number of sessions and one aspect is to strengthen the rules requiring that an exam take place. I continue to be disappointed that few see that aspect as important and worthy of attention.
And we have no power at all over police reserves. They may dress in uniform and look exactly like police but there are no rules at all about them unless the department establishes them. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office is one agency with reserves that they monitor closely and establish rules of conduct.
And I think it should be required at other stages in an officer’s career. Like when they change departments –the new one should test again. And when they are promoted to supervise others. People can change somewhat over time and as they mature. And if they have served in a challenging assignment for a period of time –that can impact them. Investigating child abuse is one that comes to mind. That can take you off center.
Here is an article on the topic I found interesting:
Denver Post article on Colorado’s considerations of a requirement for psych evaluations for police officers.