Job Characteristics of Officers and Agents: Results of a National Job Analysis

Article excerpt

The law enforcement community represents a group for which the decision to hire, fire, and make many other personnel-related decisions is of critical importance. When a law enforcement officer or agent is hired, the person must be capable of meeting a wide range of job requirements. If he or she is not fully capable of performing job requirements, the officer or agent can be a danger to him or herself, coworkers, and the general public the person was hired to protect. A particular need is for reliable and valid medical standards. Federal agencies that employ law enforcement officials must ensure that personnel are medically and psychologically fit to perform their duties at the full performance levels. (1)

The organization studied for this article is a large federal agency that employs thousands of people across the United States. To meet its mission, the agency employs between 500 to 2,000 law enforcement officers and agents. Agents are covered by the GS-1811 occupational series and are responsible for planning and conducting investigations. Officers are uniformed personnel covered by the GS-1802 occupational series, and they are responsible for enforcing federal laws and regulations.

In December 2003 the agency initiated data collection procedures for a job analysis of law enforcement positions focusing on identification of essential job functions for the development of medical standards. The job analysis was conducted in cooperation with the Federal Occupational Health (FOH) office, which is an element of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. FOH has the responsibility to develop medical standards for federal law enforcement positions. A statistical analysis of the job characteristic data collected by the agency follows.

The primary objective of this analysis is to answer the question of which job requirements of the law enforcement positions are the most critical for the development of medical standards. Critical job requirements were identified by determining which job characteristics law enforcement personnel currently employed by the agency deem important to job performance and occur frequently. Job relatedness of the requirements identified by law enforcement personnel was established through the use of appropriate statistics. Discussion of related literature and an introduction of the specific design used to obtain the results of the study follow. The presentation of the data collected and the meaning of the results is also considered.

Job Analysis

According to Brannick and Levine, "Job analysis covers a host of activities, all of which are directed toward discovering, understanding, and describing what people do at work. Job analysis is important because it forms the basis for the solution of virtually every human resource problem." (2) More directly, job analysis is a critical HR function because it establishes the extent to which characteristics of a position are job related. Weighing the job relatedness of a position's characteristic is vitally important when making personnel related decisions. For example, when selecting new employees, public employers must make hiring decisions that are consistent with important characteristics of the job. Job analysis is used for, among other things, the development and validation of selection procedures, the setting of minimum qualifications, and the validation of physical ability selection criteria for police officers. (3-5)

Job-related characteristics are also important once employees are hired. In managing a public workforce, decisions related to personnel decisions such as promotions, development, discipline, reassignment, and terminations must also be based on job-related criteria. For example, job analysis has been used to develop a content-valid training report for report writing. (6) When public employers make personnel decisions that are not related to characteristics of the job, they make themselves liable to costly legal action. …