“Imposter”

Every so often there is media exposure, even national coverage, of someone in the community sought for posing as a police officer. Among those in the department such news is typically met with a variety of emotions, from anger even rage, or displaced displeasure and annoyance. Where do these emotions come from? I would imagine much comes from all the hard work the men and women in law enforcement have done with the community and to see an “imposter” taint the reputation and prestige of the job. There is immense sacrifice these men and women give to wear the badge and that comes from intense and continual training, professional standards, working around the clock and on holidays, as well as the specific trials and tribulations of the job. Then someone steps in and assumes a role that has been earned with blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice by the legitimate folks in law enforcement. The gull of such an individual to present self as a police officer! I think these emotions are understandable and I think that they are not unique to the law enforcement profession. Plumbers, electricians, teachers, among many other professions require specific developed skills and those skills are entrusted by consumers (i.e. community members). These skills are highly important and highly relied upon, which is why there is general standards for licensure for many professions. That is, licensure for professional practice, just as certification as a police officer, sets a minimum bar of competence to perform essential duties within the profession. As a psychologist I too can appreciate this, as there are considerable standards to meet state...

Paratroopers, predictability, perception, and policing

Jumping out of a moving airplane and parachuting down to a specific target is terrifying. In fact, I am not alone in this perception. Military paratroopers are among the most elite military positions. Do you think a newly admitted paratrooper-trainee is prepared to meet the psychological demands of jumping out of a moving airplane? I imagine not; in fact, it is normal for a paratrooper soldier to experience an exaggerated stress response during their first jump, and second, and third, etc. The stress experience BEFORE the jump is also considerable as the soldier has little idea what to expect, this is the first experience. The training of a paratrooper then must incorporate insight into the natural stress reactions before, during, and after a jump from a moving airplane. Too much stress can impact cognitive functioning and actually lead to performance risks. During the first jump there is a considerable stress response, as we have noted. However after each successful subsequent jump what we notice is a tendency for the stress response to become less intense and also less in duration, both during the jump as well as before. Why? Well, one of the major factors for this is that after each jump the soldier learns what to expect. Having a degree of predictability can impact the intensity of a stressor. At the same time the soldier also has learned how to manage the task at hand. So there is not just the predictability of what to expect, but also the perception of being able to handle it. Through repeated exposures to the event the emotional responses of a stressful...

Three reasons why specialists matter

There are quite a few reasons why hiring a specialist trained in police psychology is important to the success of your organization. Here are three of the most significant. Avoid harm Having a competent, qualified police psychologist on staff can better protect the safety of your personnel and community. Why? For the simple reason that because they have an academic background in both psychology and police psychology, they are trained to recognize danger signs that a non-specialist may not; simply put, their professional insights lead to more competent practice.  Reduce liability Having a competent police psychologist on staff can provide assistance in the areas of risk management and liability mitigation. This becomes most prominent proactively, such as in the case of psychological assessment. They advise and consult with agencies regarding practice that is consistent with industry standards and can even consult in how departmental policy is written.  In addition, a police psychologist can research and comprehend law enforcement and psychological studies, design and conduct applied research, develop program evaluation methodologies to assess both effectiveness and return on investment, and create targeted interventions to reduce an agency’s risk for litigation. Improve wellness Having a competent police psychologist on staff can help boost personnel wellness, from reducing stress and improving workplace health to lowering turnover and burnout rates — all of which can save the department money. Above all, however, the police psychologist, who is familiar with the cultural elements and the legitimate experiences of officers, can assist in breaking down the barriers in understanding how these experiences can have impact on their psyche.  For example, a police psychologist can help...

Hiring a Specialist Trained in Police Psychology Is Mission-Critical to Achieving Success

Dealing with a demanding population, such as police officers, where workplace stressors are complex and legally and culturally challenging, requires an expertise that not every licensed psychologist can fill. In fact, the exact opposite is often the case: psychologists without specialized knowledge and training can actually do more harm than good when treating police officers or consulting with department related to assessment. This is the first in a series of articles that explore why it’s mission-critical — to the well-being of personnel, the department, and the general public — to work with a qualified police psychologist. Not everyone is an expert These days it seems everyone claims to be an expert. No matter your profession, or your calling, you’re bound to encounter a colleague or a rival who professes to have all the answers. Which is fine, when it comes to general fact-finding or short-term problem-solving. Yet when situations require a specific expertise, it’s time to call a specialist; if you rely upon past methods using the same approach in these situations, then the results will be sub-optimal.  Nowhere is this more critical than in providing psychological services to a complex, highly scrutinized, and even marginalized population, such as police officers, whose workplace and private lives are often characterized by complex and challenging stress factors. Providing access to a specialist psychologist is extremely important in handling certain matters successfully, such as conducting pre-employment and fitness-for-duty evaluations. What does ‘qualified’ mean? Quite often however, a situation arises that requires an expertise that not every licensed psychologist can fill. For example, a “generalist” psychologist is not likely informed about the psycho-legal...

Evaluating Quality

The recent results from a federal agency about the contract performance of Atlantic OccuPsych: Evaluation Areas Rating Quality Exceptional Schedule Exceptional Management Exceptional Regulatory Compliance Exceptional “The contractor has consistently provided high-quality work products within reasonable costs…” “The contractor was exceptional in accommodating the Government’s requests for high volume under very short timelines …” “All work has exceeded the expectations set forth by the contract requirements” Contractor Performance Assessment Report (CPAR), March...

Invited Presentations

Dr. Stephen Curran was invited to address several groups this past Fall 2015. These included the Maryland Police Training Commission (MPTC), Maryland Correctional Training Commission (MCTC) and the Maryland Public Safety and Policing Work Group. Each group sought information from the only board certified police psychologist in the State of Maryland about how to better select public safety personnel. Among recommendations provided to these groups was to recognize that conducting preemployment psychological evaluations is a specialty area. Thus, there is a great need in Maryland to mandate minimum standards that psychologists can demonstrate proficiency in selecting police, corrections and related public safety...
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