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Predicting aggressive behavior in cops—a testing firm offers clues

A new study has found that officers who were said to have a history of aggressive interactions were risk-takers with relatively little concern for safety precautions. 

Officers in an unidentified Midwestern police department were given written tests developed by Hilson Research Inc., a Kew Gardens, N.Y., psychological testing firm, to predict aggressive behavior on the job, and later were rated by their supervisors in terms of history of aggressive interactions and overall job performance.

The study found that the tests correctly classified 77 percent of the officers with regard to their history of aggressive interactions and 79 percent with regard to their overall job performance, the company said.

The study also uncovered some personality traits linked to officers with a history of aggressive behavior on the job. Most of them admitted to having problems at work, including on-the-job reprimands and difficulty adjusting to changing work conditions. They also showed a tendency to become easily angered over minor incidents at work and admitted to having difficulty keeping their tempers in check.

The aggressive officers, as well as those whose job performances were classified by supervisors as “needing improvement,” were more defensive in their responses on the tests than other officers. They also expressed the belief that life is generally unfair and justified the taking of risks or bending rules to “beat the system.”

Vicki Favuzza, a spokeswoman for Hilson Research, said the study looked at the effectiveness of two tests the firm has developed that can be used by police departments to identify undesirable behaviors. The Hilson Safety/Security Risk Inventory measures tendencies toward anti-social and violent tendencies, while the Inwald Survey 2 can identify individuals who may tend to disregard rules and societal norms   tendencies that previous research has shown are associated with anti-social or violent behaviors.

The tests have been administered by 2,000 police agencies so far this year, Favuzza told Law Enforcement News. “What we recommend often depends on the specific needs of the department, but we often do try to recommend a battery of tests for police officers because it gives the most comprehensive results,” she said.

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Published in Law Enforcement News
Dec. 15, 1996.
© 1996, LEN Inc.