I think it’s about time we talk about the “elephant” in the room concerning policing in America. In this society, when it comes to positions of power and authority (e.g., police, judges, teachers, CEOs, preachers, and of course my favorite: therapists!), NO one takes an accurate assessment of the personality it takes to perform that job… employers rely heavily upon people being “capable” of doing the job based on relevant experience and or education. Science has taught us that personality is a far better predictor of job performance, longevity, and outcome trajectories more so than capability. 90% of interviewers rely on their “gut feeling” when making decisions about hiring... there is nothing clinically valid about your gut! However, here’s the rub: certain job positions “require” a person who has the correct mindset/personality to do the job. In the bell of the curve, your accountant would make a horrible salesperson… your salesperson would make a horrible accountant! While both are “capable” of performing the opposite position, it just wouldn’t be a good fit for either, neither of which are going to be in that position for very long, driving your turnover rates through the roof! What happens when we match the correct personality type for that particular position? Or worse, suppose we have the wrong personality type in a position better suited for someone else?
So, when the police department advertises for training positions in the next academy class, what’s the composition of the applicant pool made of… personality wise… Remember there is a certain personality type attracted to positions of power! And while they may be “capable” of doing the job, they do NOT have the personality for the position. Now, here’s where most police departments make a critical error in their hiring practices. Firstly, most of them do NOT make “hiring decisions” based on personality, instead, most use capability as the chief measuring stick. Secondly, 92% of most police in America do NOT have a 4-year college degree! Seems to me that if you are going to give the power of life and death situations to police, you’d think they would have just a little more “bandwidth” than the average citizen! If you have the same bandwidth as the citizens you police, how in the hell can you effectively govern and or administer the law? (sorry, that’s another article!) Thirdly, if a significant portion of the applicant’s pool they attract for training purposes could be diagnosed (according to the DSM -V) as having Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and they select the most capable applicants, then it is no wonder how a Derek Chauvin type character gets to make poor life and death decisions in a neighborhood of people who do not look like him. The way Chauvin conveniently disconnected his humanity and objectified George Floyd, while he was pleading for his life, is reminiscent of the many police officers in America who are nefariously narcissistic. Finally, the modus operandi of most people with NPD is the unique ability to “objectify” the target of their pursuit. Not only did Michael Slager (South Carolina police officer) shoot Walter Scott in the back eight times while he was running away from him, he handcuffed his lifeless body. Slager objectified Walter Scott and conveniently turned off his morality for another human being in the most blatant disregard for life that I have ever seen administered by a police officer who was sworn to “protect and serve” the citizens. Police departments continue to conflate capability with the personality type needed to be a police officer. Just because a trainee displays great training metrics does not mean he or she will be a good officer. The liability for NOT assessing personality continues to be fatal for the citizens the police department serves. The amount of money police departments spend on misconduct continues to rise into millions of dollars despite all the human resource trainings that have taken place. The large financial settlements paid to families of police brutality have done little to nothing to deter violence or fatalities. However, what if these dangerous personality types were nipped in the bud during the police academy application process?
I’ll bet you cash money that out of the 25,000 precincts in America, there is not one of them who would let me come in as assess their personnel for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. If you remove all the narcs from the application process, would it eventually change the complexion and perception of the police department? The only remaining problem are the narcs leftover in the administration… and we all know that the “fish stinks from the head down”. One of the anecdotes from my dissertation revealed that narcissists practice the habit of nepotism… it’s like a dog whistle, they know other narcissists from regular applicants and hire them. Additionally, disgruntled employees who completed an exit interview indicated the reason they were leaving the job was not for more money, but was because of abusive managerial practices.
Narcissism has permeated every institution in America, including academia, which is loaded with tenured assholes wreaking havoc over grad students’ work, especially in the topic of narcissism (hint hint, my next article: Narcissism in the Academy and the Academic Gulag). Now, I work with corporations, schools, and other small businesses who want to nip all their problematic applicants in the bud and prevent them from coming into their organizations.
I would love to help reform police department hiring practices across the country and change the very complexion of their work force and begin a synergistic collaboration with the communities they serve so that the precious lives of all the citizens can be preserved and the restoration of trust can be made whole again. Police departments who are proactive in changing their hiring practices will be in front of the curve of this inevitable change when the majority population of this country is usurped.