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Back to Archives | Back to March 2014 Contents 

The Role of Pre-employment Screenings

Recruitment for new police officers and other public safety personnel has its challenges every step of the way, from advertising the open positions to selecting the candidates that will go on to the recruit training academy. In addition to the skills they will learn in training, successful recruits need to have certain characteristics that encompass both physical and psychological attributes.

An applicant must be able to perform the demanding work of law enforcement—from the clearly physical activities such as restraining offenders, foot pursuit, and wielding a firearm to the less obvious stress factors that result from the job’s very nature. Fitness can be developed, but medical issues such as cardiovascular disease, blood disorders, seizures, substance abuse, and vision problems, to name a few, can restrict a person’s ability to perform the duties required of police officers.

Similarly, the stress and discretion inherent in policing requires psycho-logical health, as well. This includes diagnosable issues, such as mood dis-orders, to the less tangible attributes such as the ability to handle conflict; flexibility; integrity and ethics; social competence; and other characteristics valuable in police officers. Addition-ally, law enforcement candidates must be capable of communicating effectively with a diverse set of people and handle the emotional highs and lows that can come daily in policing.

To ensure that recruits have the necessary medical and mental health to perform effectively in law enforcement, an agency should employ pre-placement medical screenings by a police physician and pre-offer psycho-logical screenings by a qualified mental health professional to assess the health of applicants and recruits. There are a number of laws, regulations, and guidelines surrounding both types of screenings that need to be considered when determining when candidates should be screened and what they should be screened for.

The following articles focus on why these screenings are necessary elements of recruitment; what they include; and how to make sure they’re performed properly and legally. When used effectively and in conjunction with other recruitment tools, pre-employment (or pre-placement) screenings can help ensure that agencies hire the candidates who are best suited for the job and receive such long-term benefits as increased retention, reduced sick leave, and better performance.♦


From The Police Chief, vol. LXXXI, no. 3, March 2014. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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