Maximizing the Value of Pre-employment Psychological Screening for Police Officers

by Gary L. Fischler, Ph.D, ABPP, and Kiri A. Faul, Ph.D.

According to the Minnesota POST Board, established minimum selection standards are to be followed during the hiring process for police officers. The MN POST (6700.0700, Subpart 1., I) requires that the pre-employment evaluation be conducted by a licensed psychologist and include an oral interview. While at times law enforcement administrators may view this process as only a routine, perhaps burdensome, hurdle, when performed properly, pre-employment psychological evaluations (PEPE) can yield a great deal of important, sometimes critical, information for police agencies.

So, how do agencies use PEPEs in the most effective way to ensure that this requirement adds incremental value and increases the overall efficiency of the agency? The most effective PEPEs will:

  1. Use the correct screening criteria. It is critical that your evaluator use a job suitability standard versus a psychological disorder or condition standard because most individuals who are found unsuitable for law enforcement duties do not have psychological disorders, and many who have had problems can be suitable for law enforcement.
  2. Use the most valid tests. The tests that have been most thoroughly researched and validated for law enforcement screening are the most recent form of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2-RF) and the California Psychological Inventory (CPI).
  3. Maximize the predictive value of the tests by using the best cut scores. Cut scores developed for general use are not adequate. Only cut scores designed specifically for screening law enforcement applicants can provide the most accurate prediction of a candidate’s success as a law enforcement officer.  
  4. Be within the bounds of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and related statutory and case law. Recent alleged violations in MN legal cases emphasize the importance of attending to these laws.
  5. Maintain consistency with important professional standards and guidelines. The MN POST Board and International Association of Chiefs of Police – Police Psychological Services Section (IACP-PPSS) have both established recommended guidelines for PEPEs.
  6. Maximize diversity. The PEPE process should not result in adverse impact to ethnic, racial, gender, or other specific groups of applicants. The process should also use cultural competence and the absence of bias as important screening criteria for applicants to insure that they can work well with the diverse members of the communities they serve.
  7. Be conducted only by psychologists who are specialists in Police and Public Safety Psychology. This is an important distinction included in the IACP-PPSS guidelines. The American Psychological Association (APA) and American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) have recognized police and public safety psychology as an area of specialty practice. Not all psychologists are fully qualified to provide this specialized service.  

When used properly, the PEPE process screens out some law enforcement candidates (about 15%) who may not meet the suitability requirement of the agency. Based on our research and other information, when performed with state-of-the-art techniques by examiners who are law enforcement specialists, screening out these candidates can result in:

  1. Long-term reduction of sustained citizen complaints.
  2. Reduction of stress-related psychological injuries.
  3. Maximization of officers’ positive relationships with citizens, and teamwork with coworkers and supervisors.
  4. Elimination of costly errors of judgment.
  5. Reduction of excessive force incidents and abuse of authority.
  6. Reduction of other disciplinary issues, including probability of termination.
  7. Maintenance of the highest standards of integrity, dependability, and reliability.

For further information on how to get the most out of your PEPEs, please visit our website ( to view our recent webinar and browse our library of articles, professional guidelines, and other resources, or call us at 612-333-3825.

Dr. Gary L. Fischler earned a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1984. He is a Board Certified Specialist of the American Board of Police and Public Safety Psychology and a member of its Board of Directors, serving as its National Chair of Examinations. He is an adjunct assistant professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and has served as the chair of the University of Minnesota Press Advisory Board, Test Division. Dr. Fischler's special interests relate to the interface between psychology, legal issues, and workplace concerns, and he has authored or co-authored several publications on these topics.

Dr. Kiri A. Faul earned her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of North Dakota in 2006. Since 2008, her primary specialty has been working as a Police and Public Safety Psychologist, conducting over 2000 Pre-employment Evaluations, Leadership & Management Assessments, and Fitness-for-Duty Evaluations. She also provides mental health and wellness services to public safety agencies. Dr. Faul’s special interests relate to PTSD and trauma stress responses. She is an active member of IACP-PPSS, having served as a member of its Education Committee for the annual IACP conference. In addition to Police and Public Safety, she provides evaluations in the areas of Social Security Disability, VA disability, family court, and private Independent Psychological Medical Evaluations.