Psychological tests and their purpose in policemen evaluation

In the light of the recent debate regarding the policeman arrested for pedophilia on January 8th2018, The Romanian Association of Psychologists aims to clarify some of the psychological tests characteristics, purposes and measurement abilities.

The psychological tests are professional instruments with an important validity. The psychological test is psychology’s contribution to the broader scientific methodological repertoire. The evidence-based psychological tests are reliable and sensitive professional instruments, and their results are trustworthy. This is the case of numerous tests in Romania that have been culturally adapted and standardized, and hold an excellent validity, and can be, therefore, used in decision-making processes.

Not all the tests are the same – while some are better and more precise, others aren’t. Thousands of instruments aiming to measure diverse psychological aspects are available worldwide. For each and every psychological concept there are numerous available tests. However, they aren’t equally valid. Only a few of them are recognized by the scientific community as “gold standards”, and those are the ones that should be used especially when their impact might be a major one.

As one might already know, due to financial constraints, many of the Romanian public institutions aren’t always using these gold standards. Since these instruments are protected by copyright, whenever used, a payment towards their authors or license holders is required. Due to monetary constraints, this domain, along with others, is one in which some of the Romanian public institutions cannot afford to access top services. Even when these instruments are available, they aren’t used on a regular basis, such as the employee assessment, but on special occasions.

The contracted psychologists working in the Romanian Police and other similar institutions are professionals. We are certain that our fellow colleagues working in diverse public institutions are adequately trained in their profession. It is true that the best test is only as good as the psychologist using it. However, at the same time, without professional instruments, the psychologist can only perform within certain constraints. Providing the adequate instruments is the institution’s responsibility. The psychologists being questioned for a constraint that isn’t under their control is unfair. Therefore, even though these institutions, including the Romanian Police, have excellent psychologists trained in testing and psychological assessment, their actions are limited by not having the appropriate instruments, just like a surgeon’s actions would be limited by not having the right scalpel.

Testing in the Romanian Police and other similar institutions doesn’t necessarily focus on the clinical evaluations. A psychological evaluation is only efficient for its proposed objectives. Many of the institutions focus on an evaluation process aiming to find the candidate that fits a particular position, and the tests assess, for example, whether or not the individual has the aptitudes the employer is looking for and their level. If mental health isn’t one of the evaluation objectives, it is clear that there won’t be any disorders detected during the evaluation process. Furthermore, the evaluation objectives are decided mostly by the institutions and merely by the psychologists. Psychology has the ability to address the strategic objectives of these institutions, but the psychologists, as employees, can only assess what they are being asked to. Taking these into consideration, we should be asking ourselves what kind of evaluation do we want for the Romanian Police or other similar institutions employees? Are we interested in their mental health or in them simply being fit for their job?

Professor, Ph.D. Daniel David, president of The Association of Psychologists in Romania/ The Association of Romanian Psychologists

“The serious question people are asking themselves is whether or not psychological tests can actually spot disorders such as pedophilia. The answer is yes: there are very good tests, that can identify the mental disorder profile including the sexual area, especially when used by qualified psychologists. Obviously, this sort of objective implies using these tests along with other information sources. However, not even the most rigorous test cannot guarantee success unless it is a part of an assessment of the personnel, with clearly defined objectives, done by qualified psychologists, on a regular basis. There is no easy way out when it comes to psychological evaluation.” emphasizes Professor Dragos Iliescu, the General Secretary of The Association of Psychologists in Romania/ The Association of Romanian Psychologists and the president of The International Test Commission.

For more information on this announcement, contact us at contact@apsi.roor