The Emergence of Psychologists and Behavioral Scientists as
Human Factors and Performance Consultants to Law Enforcement
Joseph A. Davis, Ph.D., LL.D.(hon), D.A.B.F.E., D.A.B.F.M.


Behavioral scientists, specifically, police psychologists, play an integral role in law enforcement today. Large metropolitan law enforcement agencies such as the Dallas, Boston, San Diego and Los Angeles Police Departments, employ behavioral scientists in the capacity of police psychologists, organizational development and human factors/human performance consultants (Davis, 1995; Reiser, 1972a). Many behavioral scientists who possess specialized training beyond traditional clinical training, can effectively assist law enforcement management and related personnel to enhance their day-to-day operations and the performance of departments and staff.


The ways in which police psychologists or behavioral scientists are used in modern law enforcement departments today are diverse. For example, police psychologists are typically involved with individual and group consultation, officer candidate assessment and evaluation, police officer selection, hostage negotiation, stress management, counseling of police officers and their families (Davis, 1993; Depue, 1979; Reiser, 1972b). Additionally, other duties include police management and supervisory training, police academy teaching and instruction, research and development, police or community critical incident debriefing, urban crime prevention programs, advanced officer training, diagnosing and solving organizational, managerial or supervisory problems, the implementation of human resource development programs, employee assistance programs (EAP'S), and "burn-out" prevention programs. Taken together, these efforts are ultimately directed at planning for the departments' overall future growth and, for the wellness of its personnel who operate within it (Hargrave & Berner, 1984).


Typically, police psychologists work for departments in one of two ways - they provide services, consultation and training as an "in-house" service (i.e., as an actual department staff member) or they serve as an outside consultant who provides services under contract department wide. There are advantages as well as limitations to both, however, both arrangements have merit, and should be set up according to agency size, number of personnel, specialized needs, and budgets of each department and division in mind. Regardless of the arrangement, the police psychologist should generally be connected to the highest level of the department's administrative and managerial structure. When possible, the psychologist should work in close proximity to the Chief of Police for the purposes of "direct line" consultation and communication (Lefkowitz, 1977).

The issue of confidentiality is very important for the police psychologist who works with sworn or support personnel, especially when services such as psychotherapy, counseling, assessment, fitness-for-duty evaluation, and research are conducted (Davis, 1993). Depending on the issue or referral question, confidentiality can be complete, limited, restricted, or open and up-front. This is addressed with the officer or employee seeking or being referred for psychological services once contact with a supervisor or commanding officer is made. A non-restrictive disclosure or breach of confidentiality occurs when a question of officer dangerousness or an issue involving fitness-for-duty is of major concern (Davis, 1995; Somodeville, 1978; Reiser, 1972).


Victimization, misuse or abuse of police powers and officer misconduct are areas typically open and "up-front" in terms of disclosure that are not protected by confidentiality. Areas involving complete confidentiality include the direct counseling and treatment of officers, their families, and various civilian personnel job-related problems. Special consideration is given when there is a question of privileged communication between the police psychologist, employee, and a third party (i.e., supervisor or family member) (Davis, 1993).


Ideally, when the police psychologist is a contract provider, their office is located physically outside of the department to facilitate privacy and confidentiality. If the police psychologist is an "in-house" service provider, department representative or an extension of the department, their office should be secluded enough to promote utilization of services, confidentiality, and employee receptability (Somodeville, 1978; Reiser, 1972).

In a unique "forensic" role utilized by some departments, the expertise of the police psychologist plays an important part as an objective scientist in major case consultation or when a crime investigation is underway. This may especially be the case when the crime committed by the perpetrator or offender is a "stranger to stranger" crime or in cases where the crime seemed senseless, sexually sadistic and motiveless or when the perpetrator is unknown and cannot be identified (Davis, 1995).


Requests for psychological assistance may come from specific investigative units within the department such as the homicide unit, sex crimes unit or "violent crimes committed against persons" division for the purposes of "criminal investigative analysis" or "criminal psychological personality profiling." Crime scene analysis, criminal investigative analysis or what is often referred to as "profiling" involves carefully detailing the crime scene area identified by officers, detectives, coroners, medical examiners, criminalists, forensic scientists, and evidence technicians (Davis, 1993; Geberth, 1981). Along with talking to forensic crime scene photographers and examining crime scene or victim photographs, the police psychologist (especially when trained in the forensic sciences) can give many investigators sound objective scientific support when evaluating and examining the critical elements connecting physical, mental or circumstantial evidence during intense crime scene analysis. A "profile" generated at times can yield important psychological, forensic, and behavioral data or associated variables as to the offender's "modus operandi" or M.O. (method of operation) and so-called, individual "signature." This relates to antecedent criminal behavior or how the individual organized and planned the crime, carried it out, staged it, and selected the victim in some cases (Davis, 1993; Geberth, 1981). Typically, the criminal does not commit certain types of crimes such as sexually motivated homicide overnight. These types of crimes evolve over time and can involve an organized offender type that plans a very methodical approach to victim selection and abduction such as in the Ted Bundy case. Conversely, a disorganized offender type can carry out the same or similar crime without such meticulous and methodical approaches to detail and victim selection such as in the Richard Chase case (Davis, 1995). To complicate matters even more, the offender can possess both organized and disorganized approaches to committing violent crimes suggesting and presenting a mixed offender type to investigators or profilers. It must be recognized even by the most experienced investigator that a criminal's "M.O." can change from one crime to the next; however, the same criminal's "signature" will remain unchanged and always consistent (Davis, 1994; Geberth, 1981; Cooke, 1980). Additionally, in terms of a homicide case, the crime scene can yield significant clues regarding pre-crime and post-crime scene behavior. It is important to consider whether the perpetrator was an "organized," "mixed" or otherwise "disorganized" type offender and whether injuries or sexual and physical assaults sustained to the victim's body were inflicted at times suggesting ante mortem (when the victim was alive) or post mortem intervals (after the death of the victim).


The crime scene, along with additional inspection at the "morgue scene," (typically held at the Coroner or Medical Examiner's office), can render information regarding the degree and type of violence exerted by the criminal toward the victim. This is especially important when examining the various types of trauma inflicted such as blunt force, sharp force, asphyxia, "tight" contact or close range gun shot wounds (Davis, 1994; Geberth, 1981). Many crimes have motives; however, some crimes appear to be senseless or even motiveless. Evidence of sadistic torture, trauma to the face or personal areas, binding of the victims hands and feet (ligature), the type of binding utilized (duct tape, rope, wire, electrical cord), the disposition of the body when found, location of the body when found (i.e., open area or secluded area, hidden or covered, buried or dumped in a culvert or alongside a highway or back road), and, perhaps, the specialized positioning of the body (undressed, dressed, provocative pose or otherwise) can often reveal the killer's organization (or lack of), planning and thought processes before, during, and after the act of violence was committed. The connecting elements of the crime, the "signature" and "profile" of the individual who carried out the heinous act of violence, no matter how organized, disorganized, sexually sadistic or ritualistic, will in most cases, typically surface (Davis, 1994; Cooke, 1980).


In addition to providing and supporting investigators with valuable antecedent criminal profile information and data, the police psychologist can be a valuable asset to the department directly when the community or even police personnel have witnessed an act of violence, a crime, or a tragedy so bizarre, unusual, brutal or heinous that critical incident debriefing or consultation and subsequent counseling for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs. An example would be the unforgettable massacre and mass homicide of 2l innocent and unsuspecting men, women, and children (the youngest victim was eight months old) involving James Oliver Huberty that occurred at McDonald's Restaurant in San Ysidro in July of 1984. We must not forget the mass homicide of 23 victims at Luby's Cafeteria in Killean, Texas by solo gunman George "Jo Jo" Hennard (Hennard's murderous action remains the largest single incident of mass homicide witnessed in this country to date). Consider the brutal serial homicides in 1990 that effectively terrified the residential suburbs of Clairemont and University City areas of San Diego which took the lives of six women, one of which was this author's former student (Davis, 1995). The San Diego Police Department and Homicide Division received thousands of calls and over 1, 100 leads or tips from the public regarding the six San Diego murder cases. Top police administrators and supervisors subsequently assigned 44 investigators to the case which eventually turned out to be the largest serial murder "man hunt" in the San Diego Police Department history. The FBI was also involved in this case from a forensic and profiling standpoint.


In times of public "outcry" or citizen unrest, a police psychologist can be of valuable assistance. Supporting the Chief of Police or Sheriff as an organizational and human factors advisor, the psychologist or behavioral scientist can effectively establish or chair a "task force" to evaluate specific problems facing police and the community (Davis, 1993; Lefkowitz, 1977; Reiser, 1972).


In general, by integrating the expertise and support of behavioral scientists or police psychologists into the structure and daily operation of the police department, management and supervisory personnel can ensure the maintenance of productive functioning as well as the quality of the day-by-day performances of their sworn and non-sworn personnel. The utilization of police psychologists has proven to be an extremely valuable asset and is cost effective (Davis, 1993). The overall wellness, mental health and efficiency of the entire organization can be altered in the long run (Reiser, 1972b). The time has come where law enforcement departments can no longer afford not to borrow from the expertise of the behavioral and forensic sciences (Davis, 1993).

References

 

Cooke, G. (1980). The role of the forensic psychologist. Springfield, Il.: C.C. Thomas Publishers.

Depue, R. (1979). Turning inward: The police counselor. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 8-12.

Davis, J. A. (1995). The police psychologist in today's law enforcement. The Police Chief Magazine. International Association of the Chiefs of Police (IACP). Alexandria, Virginia, Vol. LX11, 11, 36-38.

Davis, J. A. (1994). The art and science of psychological-criminal profiling: Selected readings in forensic profile analysis, Course Workshop Training Manual, San Diego, California.

Davis, J. A. (1993). The use of behavioral scientists in law enforcement. The Law Enforcement Quarterly, San Diego, California.

Geberth, V. (1981). Psychological profiling, Law and Order. 46-52.

Hargrave, G. E., & Berner, J. G. (1984). POST psychological screening manual. Sacramento,

California. California Commission on Police Officers Standards and Training.

Lefkowitz, J. (1977). Industrial-organizational psychology and the police. American Psychologist, 32, 346-364.

Reiser, M. (1972a). The police department psychologist. Springfield, Il.: C. C. Thomas Publishers.

Reiser, M. (1972b). Practical psychology for police officers. Springfield. Il.: C. C. Thomas Publishers.

Somodeville, S. (1978). The psychologist's role in the police department. The Police Chief, 21-23.

©1998 by The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, Inc.