Psychological evaluations for both sworn and civilian applicants are a critical piece to the entire background process. In Colorado all Sworn Law Enforcement Officers must go through a Psychological testing process called the POST Psych, but what about dispatchers? Many agencies overlook the need to have a Psychological evaluation conducted on dispatch applicants. Disregarding this step in the process, to save a few bucks, can later cause expensive and potential liability problems for the hiring agency.
One case in particular involved a dispatch applicant, who on paper looked like and acceptable applicant. There were some minor employment reference concerns regarding this individual’s ability to get along with co-workers, but nothing that would have been a disqualifier. When this individual completed their Psychological evaluation, it turns out they self identified having a progressive violent behavior, which they considered normal, to include an unreported Domestic Violence incident. There was also a diagnosis of borderline split personality disorder. I think it goes without saying, putting this person in a high stress environment such as a dispatch center could be detrimental to the agency and community. None of the above concerns would have come to light without a Psychological evaluation, until it would have been too late.
Polygraph examinations are another tool in conducting a proper background investigation. They can be used to verify information already known to the Investigator or bring to light new concerns or topics of discussion to have with the applicant. Additionally, Polygraph examinations should never be a stand-alone dis-qualifier. Rather they require corroboration in the area of the significant response before recommending a disqualification.
Once again, many agencies will only polygraph Sworn applicants and not their dispatchers or records techs. For the small fee it costs to conduct a polygraph examination it can possibly save an agency thousand or millions of dollars down the road.
Case in point was a Dispatch applicant who had a few challenges to overcome in their background but would have survived and possibly made it through to the hiring phase, had it not been for the polygraph examination. This individual had a rough childhood but did appear to be turning their life around. During this person’s polygraph examination, they disclosed to the examiner they were an “Enforcer” for a local drug dealer and would “Bring” the non-paying clients to the dealer to make sure they paid. They also disclosed they would deliver drugs to the street dealers.
Records checks/searches are conducted by almost all background investigation companies. Some companies stop at the basic records checks but there are deeper checks that can be done to verify the clients are getting all the information to make an informed hiring decision.
For instance, there are ways to verify someone’s employment history when a previous employer refuses to respond or confirm employment information. As a matter of fact, some applicants will not disclose previous employers in fear of a bad reference. How do you verify employment if the applicant does not list any employer for a span of time, stating they were unemployed?
This exact scenario occurred with an applicant who said they voluntarily left a job for family medical reasons and had not worked since leaving, one year. Turns out this individual had not only had four employers in that year, but was terminated for shoddy work from the job they claimed they left for family medical reasons.
One applicant seemed to be a very good candidate, until their social media accounts were checked. It wasn’t until a deeper look into their accounts revealed confirmed ties to local gang members, which two of their associates were in jail awaiting trial for murder.
Its these extra steps that must be taken to properly vet applicants and give the client the best qualified candidate.
In person file reviews on sworn applicants are a must, if the agency is willing to allow you to review the applicant’s personnel and Internal Affairs files. Just because an agency tells you there is nothing concerning in their file doesn’t mean there’s nothing there. Especially, if the agency would be happy for you to take their problem away. You wouldn’t think this would happen but it does.
One applicant disclosed an investigation they were the subject of but stated nothing became of the investigation. Upon contacting the top official at this agency, we were told there were no sustained allegations in this person’s file. Upon conducting an in-person file review, it was found the applicant made a plea deal with the agency. The deal was that the applicant would resign in lieu of termination and the agency would sustain a lessor violation, instead of the sexual harassment allegation. If the applicant would not have entered into the plea deal, and would not have resigned, the Sexual Harassment allegation would have been sustained.
In person applicant background interviews can reveal very valuable information and set the stage for the pending polygraph examination. The interview is a series of structured questions intended to get the applicant to recall information that may or may not line up with the information they provided on their application or Personal History Statement. This series of questions works hand in hand with the polygraph examination. These questions give the applicant the opportunity to clarify anything concerning in their background, also allows them the opportunity to come clean on anything they may have purposefully left out of their background history prior to taking their polygraph examination. Many times, this interview plants the seed with the applicant that they better tell the truth or they may show deception during the polygraph. It’s not uncommon for applicants to disclose information during this interview that they purposefully left out. The face to face interview also allows the investigator to observe the applicants body language during the interview, which can not be seen during a phone conversation.
Reference interviews are great for finding out who your applicant really is. Let’s be honest, the applicant is going to provide the references that are going to make them seem like a great hire and have never done anything wrong. When contacting listed references we ask them to list two or three other individuals that may know the applicant. And those developed references are also asked for two or three other contacts. It's through these developed references where undisclosed information of behavioral concerns may be located. These developed references many times have no idea the applicant has applied for another job, some have not spoken to the applicant for some time and many times these developed references were not listed for a reason.