Webinar presenter Dr. Michael Aamodt answered a number of your questions after his presentation, "Hiring Great People: What Best Predicts the Performance of Law Enforcement Personnel." Here are a few of his responses.
Audience Question: How long is HR permitted to retain the results from pre-employment testing?
Mike Aamodt: There isn't a federal law that limits how long you can keep them. You want to keep them for at least two years, in case that there's a lawsuit and you have to be able to defend that lawsuit. That I'm aware of, there is not a maximum amount of time you can keep them.
Audience Question: Can you tell us the name of that study on educational requirements for law enforcement agencies?
Mike Aamodt: It is a report titled, “Policing around the Nation: Education, Philosophy, and Practice.” It was written by Dr. Christie Gardiner in September, 2017.
Chris: Of course!
Audience Question: Can we get an email so when your new book comes out, they can find out?
Mike Aamodt: Absolutely. Chris, can we do that with Justice Clearinghouse?
Chris: Absolutely, be happy to. If you let us know when your new book is out, we'll be sure to put that to our communications and our social media as well as on our website. So, we'd be perfectly happy to do that.
Audience Question: Do you recommend an assessment for the Personality Inventory Big 5, is that the name of the assessment, or other assessments that get to the Inventory of Big 5 Personality Types?
Mike Aamodt: The Big 5 is just referring to the five broad personality dimensions that most psychologists believe cover the hundreds of smaller personality dimensions. Most personality inventories created today will tap the Bi6 5. When I first started studying law enforcement selection back in the late seventies, the tests that were used, such as the California Psychological Inventory and the 16PF, measured many specific personality dimensions. There are many companies out there that have personality inventories designed for law enforcement but I don't want to try and give an endorsement on the webinar, but there are plenty out there. And if you contact me privately I'd be happy to give you a recommendation. Our company doesn't create these types of tests so I'm not going to recommend us, but there are a lot out there.
Audience Question: When you were talking about college education, was that college education in general, as being a predictor or was it specifically in-person? Does online education predict the same way as in-person education? The audience members are trying to discern between, is it all education, in general, would be a good predictor or is there a different training in person versus online education?
Mike Aamodt: You know that's a great question, from a law enforcement perspective, I haven't seen a study that looked at that question. I know that there had been studies that looked at the people with online degrees versus those that had in-person degrees and found them to be comparable but I'm not aware of the studies that have looked at that for law enforcement. Likewise, with education, the studies are so different in terms of how they defined education. For example, some researchers used years of education, some looked at the difference between a bachelor's degree and all other levels of education, and other ones looked at just having a college degree whether it's at least an associate’s or not, it's been a mixed bag. But I think, the key thing is going to be, if you're thinking of an educational requirement, think through what it is you're trying to get. So, we'd know it's not the criminal justice majors that are performing better, they're not performing worse. So, it's not the subject matter, the content. But is it the communication skills? Is it the diversity? If that's what we think is important, an online degree is probably not as predictive of law enforcement performance. If it is really more the critical thinking skills, an online degree probably is going to be comparable.
Audience Question: Is there any research behind the benefits of having a spouse or family in terms of being a predictor?
Mike Aamodt: There is some research, but it's old. Keep in mind that many state laws don’t allow an employer to consider marital or family status.
Audience Question: Regarding doing a job analysis, when you say "conditions under which they are performed," are you considering the differences in different organizational cultures, from one department to the next? Or are you talking about the differences between a small county police department versus a large city police department? Can you clarify that?
Mike Aamodt: For the conditions, it's typically the difference between, let's say a small town and a large town or one that's in the south versus one that's in the northeast. Think about the activity of making an arrest. In a small town, that's an activity you will perform but probably not at the frequency of performing that activity in a large city. Likewise, if you compare two officers, one working in Phoenix and one in Green Bay, both are going to drive vehicles as part of their jobs but the weather conditions and terrain are very different.
Audience Question: Why do tests given by video have a less adverse impact than written paper and pencil tests?
Mike Aamodt: Because video-based tests don't rely on reading ability. Tests of reading ability are considered cognitive ability tests and we often see adverse impact with those types of written tests. If you take away the reading component, you are giving more weight to the critical thinking or the personal skills components.
Audience Question: If I were to contact my local university to have a job analysis done, where would I start? What department do I contact? Would it be the criminal science department or would it be more the business school? What's your advice regarding contacting the university?
Mike Aamodt: First thing I would do is to see whether that university has an industrial-organizational psychology program. If they do, that's definitely the place to start, because job analysis is one of the main tasks performed by industrial psychologists. If not, I would probably take a look at the business department to see if they have a human resources program. And then I would maybe go to the criminal justice department. Even though criminal justice departments don't teach job analysis, there may be a class in which the students can observe and write task statements under the guidance of the law enforcement agency.
Audience Question: It sounds like we have old job analyses — ones done thirty years ago. Is it still valid, or do we need to do a new one that reflects maybe more of the new technology, maybe the change in community, new conditions, et cetera? How long is a job analysis "good for"?
Mike Aamodt: There is no agreement. We have had many debates in our field about that, and there's probably no standard answer because some jobs just don't change very much over time whereas others change quite a bit. I think law enforcement is a great example. If you go back to the eighties, you wrote your own reports, so you had to be able to spell, you had to have good grammar, you had to be able to do your own math. Where now, not just law enforcement, many jobs, use software programs that are correcting your grammar, doing a spell check, and often times entering information in a computer that's doing the math tabulations. So, I think law enforcement's definitely changed. Any law enforcement job analysis older than ten years is going to be suspect. It is probably a good idea to take a look every five years and see how much things have changed.
Audience Question: What is the role of character in terms of hiring. Some folks talk about hiring for character, and how important and relevant that is especially in law enforcement. What is your take on that, and how does an agency go about doing that?
Mike Aamodt: It's hugely important, but the problem is how do you tap it? Maybe by looking at background investigation, we can see people who don't have it, based on their previous behaviors. But there's nothing that I'm aware of that would be able to tap whether you do have it. You have integrity tests that are designed to predict employee theft and they try to give that character aspect a little bit, but it's not the definition of character that I think the audience members are asking about. I think the background check is your best way to see they don't have it, there's a science at that. But otherwise it's just observing them in the academy, observing them on the job, that's why again, I repeat myself, treat the academy, treat field training as part of the selection process. They're not selected until they gone through that process and the look like they're going to be good officers. That's where you're going to pick those things up.