Tag Archives: policreform

Could More Police Psychology Help?

“Start to finish, in that nine minutes you see a murder in progress,” Tom Fuentes, former FBI Assistant Director and vice president at Morris & McDaniel, told Channel 11 of Pittsburgh. George Floyd’s death was the worst case of police brutality he’s seen in more than 30 years of law enforcement, Fuentes told the reporter. The officer, Derek
Chauvin, should never have been hired, he said.

Morris & McDaniel, with Dr. David Morris, a Louisiana licensed industrial-organizational
psychologist, as founder, conducts psychological testing for police applicants around the world. Dr. Lana Whitlow directs the New Orleans Regional Office, where she and Morris focus on using multiple procedures to screen candidates in order to reduce
problems from individuals hired or promoted.

Fuentes told the reporter that Chauvin exhibited sociopathic behavior and that this tendency, while seven percent in the general population, jumps up to more than 40 percent in applicants for law enforcement, Fuentes said. Dr. Morris and his colleagues been assisting public sector law enforcement organizations in designing and implementing screening instruments to help deal with these issues for over three decades. Morris is both a psychologist and attorney, and studied the concept of natural justice at the World Court in The Hague to better understand of how to test fairly.

Dr. Mkay Bonner, an industrialorganizational psychologist in Monroe, said that not only do psychologists need to stick to their scientific base of facts, but to be truly helpful and
comprehensive, psychologists must learn the culture and work environment of law-enforcement personnel.

“We must learn and understand the culture and environment that they work in,” she said. “We cannot leave our office, open a book, lecture to them for two hours on mental illness, and expect it to make a difference. We must spend time with them, go on ridealongs –at midnight, experience some of their training classes. We must understand them, how to talk to them, the best methods for them to learn…”.

Dr. Bonner has worked closely with the police in Northeast Louisiana for decades. She is the Public Safety Psychologist for several police, sheriff, and fire departments. For almost 20 years, she has conducted a variety of evaluations for pre-employment, fitness-forduty, and officer-involved shootings.

Dr. Bonner and her husband, police Sgt. Mark Johnson, serve on the Advisory Council of the Northeast Delta Crisis Intervention Team, known as CIT, covering 12 parishes in the northeast part of the state. She and her husband have now trained over 1300 individuals, mostly in the law enforcement field, through a combination of more than 100 classes, ranging from 4 hour continuing education classes through the 40 hour complete CIT class.

Dr. Charles Burchell has also worked in this area for decades. While he currently has cut
back on his independent practice, and does not render police psychological services on
an ongoing basis, he maintains professional connections, such as his membership in the Society of Police and Criminal Psychology.

“Police Psychologists continue to address two law enforcement agency concerns–
negligent hiring and negligent retention–through specialized services such as psychological pre-employment screening,” said Dr. Burchell, “rendering of clinical
support services to sworn officers and other personnel, fitness for duty evaluations,
consultation to law enforcement management, training on behavioral issues that are pertinent to law enforcement, and provision of services that may be peculiar to
law enforcement operations …”.

Negligent hiring and negligent retention may be relevant to the Minneapolis tragedy, where Mr. Floyd was killed. Personnel records cited widely now in the media report that Chavin had numerous complaints.

Minneapolis had had problems. In 2017, APM Reports found that four of the five psychological tests had been eliminated, dropping below national standards. As
recent as October 2019, City Pages reported that Minneapolis activists were pushing for mental health screenings and reforms in how officers were hired, assigned, and disciplined. One proposal called for the officers to be subject to screenings every three years.

Responding to public criticism, the Minneapolis police department hired a new psychologist in 2018 to improve screening procedures. However, officials’ choice for
the contract came under criticism when it was found that they hired a psychologist
with limited experience in police psychology.

Not many psychologists have worked to build the comprehensive networks related
to policing and developing trust with various segments of the community, as Dr.

“Psychology has much to offer. However, we cannot dabble in research and training with law enforcement,” she warns. “We must be committed and remember our roots of
scientific research and competencies. That is how we can make a difference. And, it is
an extremely worthwhile endeavor.”

Bonner has taught multiple courses at the North Delta Regional Police Academy,
including courses such as Emotionally Disturbed Persons–Mental Illness, De-escalation,
Stress Management, Cultural Diversity, and Police Survival.

“Psychologists can be key to helping the current crisis in the U.S., Dr. Bonner said. “We can especially help with law enforcement research and training. But, it is critical that
we remember our educational and professional training. We need scientific research to
guide decisions – not just based on emotions or what we think but what we can prove. We need to know what will help and what will be a waste of time, resources, or actually be detrimental.”

Bonner follows this model with intensive involvement with all aspects of the law enforcement community systems. As Co-Coordinator and the Co-Lead Instructor for the Northeast Delta Crisis Intervention Team, spanning 12 parishes in the northeast part of the state, she has extensively worked with and trained law enforcement and public safety personnel throughout Louisiana, as well as the nation.

Dr. Bonner and Sgt. Johnson serve on the Advisory Council and help achieve the
overarching goals of the CIT, goals that also address the larger community, to promote
safety for everyone by providing law enforcement individuals with the training needed to effectively respond when encountering a person with a mental illness or in mental

Their mission statement includes the following:

The Northeast Delta CIT Program promotes officer safety and understanding when
dealing with persons in a crisis. We emphasize safety to all concerned – consumers, the
communities, and law enforcement.

…We are grounded on the principles of dignity, kindness, and hope for persons with a
mental illness. Our endeavors are only possible through the collaborative efforts between persons with a mental illness, family members, advocates, government and elected leaders, community professionals, mental health providers, and law enforcement professionals.

We cannot succeed alone. The Northeast Delta CIT goes beyond a crisis intervention
team. We are truly a “Community Intervention Team.”

The effort has been very successful. “We have received recognition for our work,” said
Dr. Bonner, who has presented information about the innovative program at the CIT International Conference. The group has also been awarded the Louisiana Peace Officer’s Standards and Training accreditation, called POST. This, “… is a really big deal,”
Dr. Bonner said.

“We have also conducted CIT Train-The-Trainer for agencies throughout Louisiana and
published about the work in an international journal,” she said, which extended the benefits greatly across the state. They have found that CIT skills, including verbal de-escalation, were used in over 80% of the CIT officer reports.

Officers learning the crisis-management skills have praised the training. “One of the
best and most relevant classes I have ever taken for law enforcement.” And, “I will use
these skills every day,” and “Every officer, really everybody, needs to take this class.”

Dr. Bonner is also an Associate Professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe and teaches in the Criminal Justice & Psychology Departments, is a reviewer for the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, and authored or co-authored many journal articles and book chapters.

She has also presented at the professional conferences of the Society of Police and
Criminal Psychology, the American Psychological Association, and Professional
Training Resources, Inc. Examples include, A Successful Rural Multijurisdictional CIT
Program: A Quantitative & Qualitative 10 Year Review
, presented at the 2017 APA
Annual Conference; “Recruiting and hiring minorities into policing, with international considerations,” in International Journal of Crime, Law and Social Issues; “The Intersection between law enforcement and persons with a mental illness,” in Crime, Punishment, and the Law; and “Doing more with less: The advantage of reserve officers in law enforcement,” in Innovations in Police Volunteering.

Bonner is a regular in the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology (SPCP), an eclectic professional organization that encourages the scientific study of police and criminal psychology and the application of scientific knowledge to problems in criminal justice.

Another organization of police psychologist is the Consortium of Police Psychology Services (COPPS). In 2011, Dr. Penelope (Penny) Dralle and colleague Dr. Charles
Burchell met with colleagues in New Orleans where Dr. Dralle served as President for
the Consortium.

Dr. Dralle, a clinical and consulting psychologist, has served as Consulting Psychologist for the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), as associate professor for the Louisiana State University School of Medicine (retired), and member of the Blue Ribbon
Committee on NOPD Police Recruiting (now Consortium of Selection and Recruitment
for NOPD). She coordinated and supervised pre-screening operations for the hiring of
officers for the city.

Dralle has been in the middle of the reforms in the field for over 40 years. “Testing for police officers started before the ’60s,” Dralle noted. “In 1967, a Presidential commission
recognized the importance of assessment. The goal was that by 1975 every law enforcement agency would be using some sort of standardized test to determine the emotional stability of law enforcement candidates.”

In 1976, the FBI and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) of the Department of Justice sponsored the National Working Conference on the Selection of Law Enforcement Officers at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA. The first conference of the LEAA, was held at Quantico, Va., in 1979. The meeting attracted professionals from all over the country. In 1984, at another later informal meeting at the FBI, Gabriel Rodriguez, of Louisiana, helped organize COPPS.

“I started working with the city in the mid 1970s, with Dr. Arthur J. Gallese,” Dralle said, “who moved to New Orleans after leaving a position as Research Coordinator at the Dept. of Public Welfare in St. Paul, Minn. He had trained at University of Minnesota and
was an expert in the use of the MMPI when he joined the faculty at LSUMS.”

Over the years the standards of practice for screening and assessment of law enforcement have become more codified with guidelines published by the Psychological Services Section of the International Association of Chief of Police and the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology, looking at what is acceptable for how a department goes about assessing candidates.

Dralle was asked to take over preemployment selection work for the NOPD after Hurricane Katrina, and she offered the Police and Civil Service Departments of New Orleans a standardized approach to the selection and evaluation of their candidates, enlisting other experienced professionals in the community to participate.

She has worked to share information with others in conference presentations such
as “Developing a Partnership to Enhance the Police Recruitment and Retention in
New Orleans: A Case Presentation,” “Critical Incident Response for Louisiana Law Enforcement Personnel and their Families: A Journey in Crisis Intervention for the Unrecognized Victims of Crime,” and “Ethical Issues in the Psychiatric/Psychological Evaluations of Police Recruits.”

“The commonly used tests have been ‘normed’ and ‘renormed,'” Dralle notes, “and new tests have been developed to address specific problems. For example, the Matrix-Predictive Uniform Law Enforcement Selection Evaluation Inventory was published in 2008 by Drs. Robert Davis and Cary Rostow of Baton Rouge.”

The late Dr. Robert Davis, founder of Matrix, Inc., a Police Psychological Services Corporation, was senior author of the M-PULSE™ ––the MatrixPredictive Uniform Law Enforcement Selection Evaluation Inventory, as well as the comprehensive post-offer
evaluation methods.

Dr. Davis was one of Louisiana’s examples of a psychologist closely involved with the police. He served as Chief Police Psychologist for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, and as Police Psychologist for the Louisiana State Police in Baton Rouge. He was
trained at the Law Enforcement Training Program, Louisiana State University, 147th Basic Training Academy.

Board certified in Police Psychology and Forensic Psychology, he was nationally known for the development of inferential statistical models for the actuarial prediction of discrete liabilities in law enforcement and other public safety professions.

Over the years, Davis and colleague Dr. Cary Rostow published numerous articles about employee selection for law enforcement professionals, most notably the M-PULSE Inventory: Matrix Predictive Uniform Law Enforcement Selection Evaluation Inventory,
published in 2008 by MHS, Inc., Toronto.

Rostow and Davis also wrote Fitness for Duty Evaluations for Law Enforcement Officers: A Guide for Law Enforcement Executives and Police Psychologists, by Haworth Press in 2004.

Their many scientific publications included, “Psychological Police Officer Selection” for Law Enforcement Executive Forum, “An Investigation of Biographical Information as a Predictor of Employment Termination among Law Enforcement Officers” in Journal of
Police and Criminal Psychology
, and “Group Differences in Detected Counterproductivity among Law Enforcement Personnel: Implications for Organizational Diversity,” in Quaderni Di Psicologia Lavoro, with S. Dilchert, and Denise Ones.

Davis and Rostow, along with colleagues, also published “Compulsive Traits and Police Officer Performance,” in J. of Police and Criminal Psychology, and “Law Enforcement Officer Seniority and PAI Variables in Psychological Fitness for Duty Examinations,” in J. of Police and Criminal Psychology, and “Psychological Screening,” in Law and Order.

In 2010 Drs. Davis and Rostow provided chapters, “Issues in Law Enforcement Fitness-For- Duty Evaluation,” and “The Use of the M-PULSE Inventory in Law Enforcement Selection,” for Personality Assessment in Police Psychology: A 21st Century Perspective.

Dr. Davis worked closely with many colleagues in the Louisiana community including Dr. Ivory Toldson, a leader in the Black community. Along with Dr. Rostow, Drs. Davis and Toldson worked together on a grant awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, and produced, “Profiling Police: Evaluating the predictive and structural validity of an actuarial method for screening civil liabilities among police officer candidates.” The three presented together at the 2004 Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Hawaii and also at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in 2004.

Today, Matrix is led by Dr. Wm. Drew Gouvier and Dr. Joseph Comaty.

Dr. Gouvier has been practicing in neuropsychology and clinical psychology for 30 years and currently holds the rank of Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at Louisiana State University, and remains active there in research and graduate training, where he also served as the Department’s Director of Public Service.

“In homage to Paul Meehl,” said Dr. Gouvier, “it is all about having science behind the
selection, and that absolutely requires a database of actual officer feedback over time
to establish the validity of the evaluation. The data collection needs to be an integral
and ongoing part of the evaluation system,” he said.

“There is not a single Good Cop profile to serve as a match to sample criterion. Rather,
empirical prediction is actuary based, and not subject to the simple Daubert Challenge
that is directed at decisions based–even in part–on clinical decision making,” Dr.
Gouvier explained.

“Practice models must favor a risk management mentality much more than the
traditional clinical service model. Tests must be validated for their purpose, and test
batteries need to be validated as a whole. Even with a selection of valid measures, the
use of clinical judgment to combine and differentially weigh discordant test results
make the decision open to the Daubert Challenge as well.”

The M-PULSE Inventory is a screening instrument designed for law enforcement
officer selection. It can be used either pre-offer to identify candidates’ liability potential,
or post-offer as part of a total assessment battery that includes historical, interview,
and observational data, notes the company.

The assessment produces results which help predict officer misconduct, and
gauges attitudes, values, and beliefs and facets of personality that are of importance
to police work. Examples include:

• Interpersonal Difficulties – At risk for problems with personal relationships.
• Chemical Abuse/Dependency – At risk for problems associated with chemical
• Inappropriate Use of Weapon – At risk for inappropriate use of a weapon.
• Unprofessional Conduct – At risk for conduct that is inappropriate for an officer
while on duty (e.g., verbal abusiveness, aggressiveness, rudeness, ethical
• Excessive Force – At risk for use of excessive force or aggressive behaviors that are inappropriate.
• Sexually Offensive Conduct – At risk for violation of sexual boundaries.
• Criminal Conduct – At risk of being arrested, charged, detained, or convicted of criminal activity or corruption.
• Racially Offensive Conduct – At risk for racially inappropriate behavior (e.g., racism
or targeting a particular race in law enforcement).

Dr. Charles Burchell, a Black psychologist, believes that the public is calling for change. “The increasing scrutiny of law enforcement by the general public with regard to racially differential employment of overly aggressive, violent, and in many cases illegal behavior of police–see Black Lives Matter movement–appears to be calling for a fundamental change in policing in America,” he said. Examples include some calls for defunding of police department or overhaul of police operations and functions, Dr. Burchell said.

“Beyond continuing deployment of police psychological services […], I feel that psychology’s role in this public health crisis is limited because psychologists function in
an advisory capacity and do not have authority to mandate any of our professional recommendations,” he said. “I do think structural changes are needed in primarily municipal law enforcement. Even where federal monitoring is in place, changes can be significant but slow and incomplete.

“For example, in 2011, the New Orleans Police Department was placed under a federal consent decree and many recommendations have been implemented, but a recent news report said that NOPD task force officers routinely stop people on questionable
legal grounds, engage in unsafe practices, and operate with insufficient supervision, and that almost identical problems were identified nine years ago,” Dr. Burchell said.

“The City of Baltimore, MD is also under federal supervision, has also made changes, but serious problems remain. One area that I believe that the role of psychologists can be strengthened is increased research in a variety of areas. But here again, what is the willingness of departments to deploy such evidence-based recommendations?” he said.

“I think that going forward, psychologists––clinical/counseling, industrial-organizational, social––can be valuable resources in helping to design new law enforcement and criminal justice delivery systems that hopefully can serve and protect all citizens in an
equitable and trustworthy fashion. We will see.”

Dr. Dralle is also concerned. “There are serious problems in policing today and
there is a need to address long-standing and widespread implicit racism. After the
publication of the guidelines for screening and evaluation by the Police Psychology Services Section (PPSS) of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and participation in the training programs for PPSS, our screening program continued to evolve to meet the new standards,” she said.

“Over the years the research associates from the Department of Civil Service and
I have assessed the psychological screening process for disparate impact and we have never noted any violations of the four-fifths rule used to assess racial or sex discrimination. […] Psychologists have also been involved in the training and ongoing assessment of police recruits.

“During the recent Department of Justice (DOJ) consent decree, a member of the consent decree monitoring team strongly suggested that we should use a test
based on Australian applicants to screen our applicants. In addition, the DOJ
monitoring team wanted more information about applicants’ psychological history and suitability of recruits to be exchanged with them, with NOPD, and with the citizen police

“In 2017, I decided not to renew my contract with the city for consultation with the NOPD. It was based on differences of opinion with some of the suggestions made by the DOJ consultants. In addition, I was dealing with professional concerns about my ability to select candidates who could respond to the needs of community policing and who could handle the societal shifts in support and attitude towards policing. As policing has become the last social program with adequate funding and facilities to handle persons who are outside the acceptable norms, their scope of responsibility has become excessively broad and possibly overwhelming,” Dralle said.

Dr. Courtland Chaney has been involved in discussions regarding civil rights/racism and policing from his professional perspective of an I-O psychology practice. He also is Public Affairs co-chair for the Louisiana Psychological Association.

In late 2016, after the death of Alton Sterling, Chaney began advocating for the development of a behavioral sciences training series for police in Louisiana.

“In order to facilitate this advocacy,” Chaney said, “I involved LSU Digital and Continuing Education and other individuals, including Mkay Bonner, who had done police training for some years.

“These efforts culminated in a pilot training session on July 25, 2018 in which we provided an overview of the kinds of topics we thought would help the police and briefly presented some substantive behavioral science information. Upon the conclusion of the session, participants said they would discuss it further among themselves, though there was so much mandated training now, it would be unlikely that more training could be required,” Chaney said.

“Police Psychology,” said Dr. Bonner, “has a much longer history than most psychologists realize. Many decades of work have occurred to help psychologists do a good job with preemployment evaluations, law enforcement training, stress counseling, etc. This is not a new field of study.”

… there is another important area that is not my area of expertise,” Bonner said, “counseling with the families of the LE [law enforcement] officer and/or the officers themselves. Right now they are needing emotional support. Psychologists can help,” she said. “… it will be most effective if the psychologist is well-versed in the LE culture and environment.

Dr. Dralle said, “Prior to the end of my work with NOPD, it seemed to me that the job of effectively selecting police officers was becoming very confusing. If we selected officers who were invested in community policing, how would these individuals handle the
negativity and lack of support from the community or the policing culture. As the job of police officer became less desirable and the applicant pool became smaller the job of policing also became more negative and less respected.

“The criteria for success were also harder to define. I chose to back away from this work and hope that a new generation of police psychologists might be better able to handle the issues and questions that were confronting me,” Dralle said.

“Personally, I know there are many more good police officers than bad ones. In addition, I cannot imagine safety if there are no officers available to protect the older and physically weaker citizens. There has to be some equitable and effective way to work this out that does not require taking sides for or against policing.”