Psychology and Policing

By Neil Brewer; Carlene Wilson | Go to book overview

8 Personnel Selection

Mary A. Gowan The University of Texas at El Paso

Robert D. Gatewood The University of Georgia

The selection process for the Metropolitan Police in the early 19th century in England was described as easy and simple. The person wishing to become a policeman had only to "present a petition to the commissioners, accompanied with a certificate as to good character from two respectable householders in the parish in which he resides" ( Grant, cited in Tobias, 1972, p. 114). Once inquiry was made of the "two respectable householders," and the applicant found to be of good character, the person was then placed on a list of eligible candidates to be considered when a vacancy arose. Successful candidates had to be under the age of 35, at least 5'8" in height, and satisfactorily pass a medical examination. Candidates who wanted to expedite the usual 8-week wait between eligibility and appointment could be appointed in 10 or 12 days by getting a friend of a commissioner to use his influence. Fortunately, selection of police officers has progressed beyond these rudimentary requirements. Today, the choices law enforcement organizations make about who to select as employees play a major role in the effectiveness of those organizations.

This chapter discusses aspects of personnel selection with emphasis on procedures most applicable to law enforcement. By selection, we mean:

the process of collecting and evaluating information about an individual in order to extend an offer of employment. Such employment could be either a first position for a new employee or a different position for an existing employee. The selection process is performed under legal and environmental constraints to protect the future interests of the organization and the individual. ( Gatewood & Feild, 1994, p. 3)

The most important aspect of this definition is the focus on the systematic collection and evaluation of information. The success of selection directly de-

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