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Police Psychology | Processing Under Pressure

A Book Review

 

I am probably the largest distributor in the world of two books, my own Keeping It Simple and Matthew Sharps’ book Processing Under Pressure.   When a person comes into my office, there is a bookcase on the right with hundreds of books on policing. Topics like Chinese gangs, Mexican gangs, shooting well, booby-trapping, Police Psychology, Cognitive, Police StressIntelligence, counterintelligence, etc.  Keeping it Simple is a natural since I wrote it and is always there.  I had bought back the rights in the late 90’s because the publisher could keep it in stock and get it to me when I was on the road doing speeches.  Cops always pick it up and keep it, which is fine.  They should.  Processing Under Pressure is the other book everyone picks up and starts to read when I make my hourly trip to the bathroom and then they say “Can I borrow this book?  I’ll bring it back.”  Cops never bring it back.  They talk about it non-stop for three or four sessions, but it never sees my office again.  That’s not fine as I have to buy those copies.

How does Processing Under Pressure grow legs or wings or whatever?  Well, the cops that take it, don’t want to give it up.  The book is extremely engaging, explains a lot that cops see in everyday life, and it makes good common sense.  I would say if you were only going to read one other book in policing, Processing Under Pressure is the one I would chose.   How does one think, what do they miss, what are they likely to say when the situation goes bad, all things covered by Processing Under Pressure.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a boss, dealing with a boss, you’re an ES guy dealing with an operation, a military man sizing up a mission, you are a shrink dealing with a client, or a guy or girl scoping out a Saturday night date (I know I am aging myself, young people don’t date anymore), this applies to your life.  So read on, I have 900-1000 words to get you to read this book sooner rather than later in your life. (more…)

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aamodt

Book review of “Research in Law Enforcement Selection” by Michael G. Aamodt.

I don’t do Meta Analysis and don’t do pre-employment evaluations.  Most of my life I have had little interest in either.  The mixing of the two for me should be somewhat like eating overdone beef liver cooked in castor oil and chasing it down with Campari (the Italian liquor that looks and tastes like transmission fluid).  So, when Mike Aamodt gave me a book looking at law enforcement pre-employment evaluations using meta analysis, I wasn’t sure I would have the stomach to read it.  But then again, Dr. Aamodt has always impressed me in his presentations with his humor and dry charm, and I always walk away with pieces of really valuable information, so maybe I could shove reading this new book of Aamodt’s between the 13th and 14th annual Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. Who knows maybe I’ll learn something.

The first two chapters are about what a meta-analysis is and how it is done in this study.  Okay I have to admit, I am a closet Discovery/History Channel watcher and fought off those un-cool nerd tendencies throughout high school and college.  And I actually like research and stats, but please do not tell the other kids.  Dr. Aamodt’s two chapters on the meta-analysis are progressive and in simple enough terms that even a non-nerd can understand his concepts, but you have to have a little of that nerd thing to find it fascinating like I did.  The meta-analysis statistically combines all well-done published studies, regardless of statistics and methods, and weighs and balances them for an overall statistical analysis of effect.  It seems like a tremendous amount of work, but what a great idea to look at data this way rather than argue one study over another.  In the following chapters he looks at variables like cognitive ability, educational background, previous military experience, background problems, individual sub-test scores on personality tests, vocational interest inventories and a host of other constructs measured in pre-employment evaluations to see if they can predict job performance, academy performance and likelihood of problems on the job.  Without giving you any of the findings (buy the book for that), I found myself constantly saying, now that is interesting (ex., criminal justice majors don’t do better as cops or in the academy, or measure “x” really has tremendous adverse impact, or this subtest doesn’t discriminate at all, etc).  Dr. Aamodt has managed somehow in this book to answer a ton of questions, raise a number of issues and keep you saying, “Wow, I never would have thought that.”

In the final chapter, Dr. Aamodt lists the things we know, the things we don’t know, and what we need to find out about pre-employment evaluations.  For example, he tells you the one subtest that is the single best predictor of performance on the job (not what I expected).  He tells you the correlations between positive citations and civilian complaints.  He tells you the best predictors of academy performance, and talks about the end of a honeymoon period where some predictors start to really come through.  Every police psychologist, every police chief, everyone working in employment law, and every graduate student studying anything about industrial organizational psychology should read this chapter.  It is worth 100 times the cost of the book and it sets a way of thinking that should be a structure for all employment testing.

I testify on a lot on police cases and work with lawyers on how to cross examine psychologists.  I have already integrated some of Dr. Aamodt’s analysis into my work.  It is just that kind of book – filled with facts that should guide the practice of a profession.  He states in the preface he wanted it to be a resource book for the profession.  He has succeeded in a big way.  If you are in any way responsible for pre-employment assessment in law enforcement, you’d better read what he says in this simple paperback book.  You definitely don’t want to face some lawyer who has read it, or has been prepared by a psychologist who has read it.  This book is a resource book that should be required reading in the profession.

Maybe I should try that Campari again.  —- Nah!!

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Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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“Here is the gold standard.”  If I read that pathetic claim on the back of one more book cover, I fear going on an armed rampage through the publishing houses of New York.  Has the hysteria of the world gotten so bad that we won’t give consideration to anything new unless we claim on the back cover that it is the best, most outstanding, or “the new gold standard?”  It makes you want to puke.  And damn if when I start to open Laurence Miller’s Counseling Crime Victims:  Practical Strategies for Mental Health Professionals (Springer, New York, NY, 2008) right on the back cover it claims to set the new gold standard.  I know this guy, digitally at least.  How could he allow the publisher to make such a disgusting claim?  I expect more from you Dr. Miller, except no way around it, this book is so good that it does set a new gold standard.

COunceling Crime Victims

Book review of “Counseling Crime Victims: Practical Strategies for Mental Health Professionals” by Laurence Miller.

I started on an easy saunter through this book figuring I’d skim most of it, but frankly I started finding I was making a paralinguistic cue every two or three minutes, mostly nasal hums and head shaking, as I read many phrases that explained some interesting material about crime victims.  I knew most of the stuff, but frankly I had gotten a little lazy as my familiarity was reduced by the lack of incidence in my practice.  I don’t treat that many victims except after terrorist acts.  There were sections like “PTSD in the Elderly” where I just didn’t have that many elderly clients so it was pretty new stuff, and research that explained what I practiced but never knew the science behind.  Dr. Miller is thorough as hell and after the first half hour I had figured this was a book I was going to keep permanently as a reference for speeches I give, programs I was developing, or court cases that I was hired on.  I felt like I had found a nice shiny piece of jewelry – okay, I’ll admit, a gold standard.

Dr. Miller has done all the work for you.  There are tons of research studies, tons of useful information, tons of practical advice on how to organize you approach to crime victims in crimes from sexual assault, to domestic violence, to homicides, even to terrorist acts.  He talks about what the people go through when they are a victim of a criminal act and what types of approaches work for each of the victims, at least in theory.  The section on school violence and bullying was particularly useful to me as I was busy preparing for a civil trial where the parent’s frustration with the school in not handling a bullying incident was central to the trials actions.  This was a profoundly useful book and the research really makes you stand up and shout “so that’s why we do it that way.”

If there is a criticism of this extremely thorough treatise it would have to do with style more than material.  It is the same criticism I have for most academic material that speak about therapy.  To make therapy material fully accessible to the largest number of readers, you must tell people what to say when they sit across from a patient, not just how to think about the treatment.  Actually tell them what to say.  Essential, more anecdotal stories intermixed with the research gets the obsessive minds of most therapists fantasizing about what they would say in that situation and then they start the rehearsal process for a patient in their future.  Adler, Meichenbaum, Erikson, and especially Albert Ellis integrated the narrative with research to an art form.  Dr. Miller’s book was not that type of book and Springer is not that type of publisher, but that would make it the most accessible to everyone.

Take this criticism with a grain of salt because Dr. Miller’s Counseling Crime Victimsis extremely effective just as it is, and it will occupy a central spot on my bookshelf as I expect to be referring to it a lot to remind me of what I know, what I have forgotten, and highlight some new ways to think about a doing therapy with a crime victim.  You really might want to check this book out if you have a therapy practice.  It is really a golden find, so to speak.

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Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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Weiss

Book review of “Personality Assessment in Police Psychology.”

I have to admit, I had no intention of reading this book in one sitting, in fact, I was only really going to read about half of the essays in this collection of essays.  I have to admit I was invited to write a chapter in this book but really couldn’t write on the topic assigned.  And may I tell you, I also need to admit I have known this editor since he was a grad student and I even know personally he is a very good golfer besides editing a book, so I am sort of attached to this young man.    I do not have to admit that the topic was not remotely interesting to me when I heard of the book originally, but I became completely engaged in it after reading only the first essay, and in fact, ended up reading the whole damn thing.  This book is definitely something to keep around awhile.

When you start reading Personality Assessment in Police Psychology: A 21st Century Perspective  (Charles C Thomas Pub Ltd  June 14, 2010,  Peter A. Weiss, Editor), you are hit in the face with a history of the personality testing in law enforcement written by Peter Weiss, the editor, and Robin Inwald.  Gee, I think I’ve heard her name before.  The history section held a lot of surprises for me.  Some of the names of the early pioneers like Joe Fabricatore and Jim Shaw were people I met originally when I came to join the organizations in the field, and people that accepted me with open arms.  I didn’t realize they were so impactful and important in building the profession.  The history of the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology, the APA Division 18 and the IACP Police Psych Services Section all had one or two things that I didn’t know about.  But the real history that surprised me was the history of personality testing for Law Enforcement populations.  Some of this history was downright enlightening, and the presentation was very good, and more than that, it was written in a style that made sense on the first read through which is often difficult when writing history.  That is worth the price of admission, but there is so much more here.

In the articles, you hear various professionals in our field give their view of certain tests, or processes, and at the end, some unusual situations where personality testing was important in police psychology.    For example, John (Jack) Jones wrote a brilliant piece on integrity testing in pre-offer that was a combination of history, education and a how-to article.  It was well-written for the consumer and gave practical advice.  It promoted a bifurcated model of testing with testing for issues like integrity and conscientiousness pre-offer, and testing for pathology post-conditional offer.  It was excellent and got me thinking about specifics of the whole pre-offer-post offer paradigm that is out-front since the ADA laws.

Then there was Mike Aamodt’s article on the meta-analysis of the various types of testing for Law Enforcement candidates.  Now I will preface this by saying Mike Aamodt is one of the best presenters I have ever seen in police psychology, and his research makes some of the most sense of anyone I have ever read in all police psychology.  He has a way about him that makes the most intricate principles simple, the most esoteric ideas commonplace, and the most convoluted concepts sequential.  He starts off his article by saying we are not predicting whether a person is good on the job, we are predicting supervisors ratings when the person is on the job – right to the root of what is going on.  Then he goes on to show evidence that psychologists are not good at connecting pathology predictions from a test to supervisors’ ratings of job performance.  Further stating that even with predictors of normal personality, only a few scales have significant level of predictive significance, for example the tolerance scale on the CPI is a good predictor of supervisor ratings.  Mike Aamodt is a brilliant man and his inclusion in this wonderful collection of essays was very important.

There are other essays by authors like Eric Ostrov on using multiple sources of information, JoAnne Brewster, Philip Wickline and Mike Stoloff on the use of the Rorschach in personality testing with Law Enforcement screenings,  Cary Rostov and Bob Davis on the M-Pulse, Gerald Serafino on fundamental issues, and of course Peter Weiss’ own father, the ex-editor of the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, William Weiss.

Faults with the book?  Damn, I can’t think of many.  The essays cover the topic well, they are interesting, there is some new stuff here, and where needed they are well researched.  If there is s a fault, I would suggest the history article has some bias toward telling history with a little angle, but this is not a big thing.  This is a good book with a lot of good information.

So, try to get a copy of Personality Assessment in Police Psychology: A 21st Century Perspective.   You will find it worth your time and no matter what level you are at you will learn a lot.   It is a wonderful reference to add to your library.

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Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

For books by Dr. Gary S. Aumiller got to www.myherodad.com or www.myheromom.com

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Rostow

Book review of “A Handbook for Psychological Fitness-for-Duty Evaluations in Law Enforcement.”

Cary Rostow asked me to review his book and I thought “no problem.”  It was a supposedly a Handbook on Fitness for Duty Examinations.  So I figured it would be a short, little boring thing with a lot of statistics, but I will slog through it and write something inane up for the membership.  Now I know realize this book is a terrible task.  It is about the most thorough treatise on a subject I could ever imagine.  Rostow and Davis went into such painstaking detail to cover every possible area on the subject of Fitness for Duty Examinations and then some.  I found myself getting angry at them that I had to read so much, and at the same time they brought the subject to life in a way that few could.  I had to read large sections at a time because I couldn’t put it down.  Handbook my arse – a handbook is supposed to be a short little “how to” thing that comes with your fancy-dansy cappuccino maker.  What kind of time do they think I have for these book reviews?

For example, the first section on the history of policing and police psychology.  Why would anyone include something like this in a handbook on Fitness for Duty Examinations?  It was fascinating to hear about the police movements in this country and the different stages of police reform.  And about police psychology and….okay, I couldn’t put it down!  But why include something so interesting in a book intended to be dry and hard to read.  I just don’t understand it.  Have they no respect for how busy I am?

They talk about developing a Fitness for Duty System, and making decision on how a Fitness for Duty will be performed.  They give the reasons why to do a Fitness for Duty and the misuses.  They go through the reasons for a fitness for duty examination, the types of recommendations, types of test, predictive validity – the stuff of handbooks, except give this one 5 stars for thoroughness in each of these areas.  Then they get really interesting again going into the fitness for duty in forensic situations such as dealing with HIPAA laws, expert witnessing, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act and the American with Disabilities Act.  These chapters are really good and bring the understanding about what employment law is all about.  Throughout the book they give examples of Fitness for Duty cases that will make you read them a couple of times because you have to think about them.  I didn’t want to think reading a handbook, but this book really got me.  Attach the “whosit” to the “whatsit,” turn button “A” and steam the milk for the cappuccino. That’s what I wanted.  What is this thinking stuff?

But the area where they shine the most is in the conclusions and reflections.  It is a short little chapter at the end, but it is loaded with thought provoking information.  It is really a great overview of future directions with the insight of people at the top of the field.

So, if you want to ruin about 3 days of your life reading a “handbook” that reads surprisingly interesting, pick up A Handbook for Psychological Fitness for Duty Examinations in Law Enforcement by Cary D. Rostow, Ph.D. and Robert D. Davis, Ph.D.  The publisher is The Hawthorne Press but it should be published by Gideon and sit in every “hotel room” where psychologists practice.

I think I’ll go make a cappuccino now!

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Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

For books by Dr. Gary Aumiller go to  www.myherodad.com  or  www.myheromom.com

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