The Validity of Assessment Center Ratings and 16PF Personality Trait Scores in Police Sergeant Promotions: A Case of Incremental Validity

By Love, Kevin G.; DeArmond, Sarah | Public Personnel Management, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

The Validity of Assessment Center Ratings and 16PF Personality Trait Scores in Police Sergeant Promotions: A Case of Incremental Validity


Love, Kevin G., DeArmond, Sarah, Public Personnel Management


Assessment centers (AC) have become a mainstay of promotion systems for both the private and public sectors--police agencies included. (1) While costly to develop and implement, their track record of validity and legal defensibility has justified their increased use. (2) Similarly, the use of personality trait measurement in personnel decisions has also shown a substantial increase in use based on its validity in predicting a range of employee and managerial job behaviors. (3) Unlike ACs, police agencies have used personality assessment primarily for entry level officer screening and fitness for duty assessments. (4) The use of personality assessment in police officer promotional decisions has rarely been reported.

Personality trait scores have shown incremental validity, however, when combined with cognitive ability tests in predicting a range of employee and managerial behaviors, (5) but not for state police recruits. (6) In addition, incremental validity has been found for personality measures when combined with biodata (7) and ACs. (8) Other than the attempt of Cortina, Coherty, Schmitt, Kaufmann and Smith, (9) who found no evidence of incremental validity, there have been no other reported studies of incremental validity for personality trait scores when used in combination with any other predictor of police officer or supervisor performance.

Evidence of Assessment Center Validity

There is substantial literature which documents the validity of ACs in predicting on-the-job performance, especially for managers. (10) In addition to its proven validity, based on candidate reactions and court challenges, the AC method has been labeled fair and legally defensible. (11)

The validity of ACs used for police officer selection and promotion has been shown to be commensurate with that found in other organizational settings. For example, AC performance ratings have been shown to be significantly related to supervisor ratings of officer performance, (12) valid for high ranking police officials (13) and accurate in prediction over a 19-year time span. (14)

Evidence of Validity for Personality Measurement

While early reviews of the literature indicated that personality assessment yielded poor validity in predicting job performance, (15) more recent work has established personality as a bona fide predictor of a range of job-related behaviors across a variety of organizational settings and employee groups, including police officers. (16) A number of meta-analyses have provided reasonable support for the use of personality assessment in selection. (17) The decision to use personality assessment by itself within an employee selection context should be made with caution, given the greater validity shown by other predictor measures, such as cognitive ability tests and assessment centers.

The resurgence of personality assessment as a valid predictor of job performance is due in large part to the fact that:

1. Personality has been shown to be a valid predictor of work-related outcomes;

2. Personality measures do not generally display adverse impact against demographic subgroups (e.g., racial, gender, ethnic, etc.);

3. The validity of personality measures is not affected by intentional faking; (18) and

4. The construct of personality has become more structured with the acceptance of the "Big Five" personality traits (e.g., conscientiousness and extraversion) and the consistency with which they are measured. (19)

Many studies have dealt specifically with the ability of personality trait scores to predict police officer performance, both on the job and while in training. Personality traits have been measured through traditional clinical self report inventories as well as instruments designed to assess the Big Five dimensions (e.g., the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory; (20) the Inwald Personality Inventory; (21) the California Psychological Inventory; (22) the Eyesenck Personality Inventory, the SCL-90, and the Bender-Gestalt; (23) the 16PF; (24) and the NEO Personality Inventory (25)). …

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