The Police Chief - August 2011 - (Page 100)

Board Certification in Police Psychology: What It Means to Public Safety By David M. Corey, PhD, ABPP, Police Psychologist, Portland, Oregon, President, American Board of Police and Public Safety Psychology; Michael J. Cuttler, PhD, ABPP, Police Psychologist, Greensboro, North Carolina, President-Elect, American Board of Police and Public Safety Psychology; David R. Cox, PhD, ABPP, Executive Officer, American Board of Professional Psychology, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; and Jaime Brower, PsyD, Police Psychologist, Nicoletti-Flater Associates, Denver, Colorado T he relationship between professional psychology and law enforcement began nearly 100 years ago when Lewis Terman, PhD, a leading expert in intelligence testing, was commissioned in 1916 to assess the suitability of police applicants to the San Jose, California, Police Department. But it took a half century for the relationship to blossom. The President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (1967) called for the use of psychological tests “for identifying and measuring the personal characteristics that contribute to good police work.”1 In 1968, the Los Angeles, California, Police Department hired Martin Reiser, EdD, ABPP, as the first fulltime police psychologist at a major law enforcement agency. A few years later, the San Jose Police Department hired Michael Roberts, PhD, ABPP, as the nation’s second full-time police psychologist, paving the way for the acceptance of police psychology as a standard function within law enforcement agencies. Behind the names of both of these pioneering psychologists are four letters— ABPP—that may be unfamiliar to many outside of professional psychology. Among psychologists, however, the letters signify board certification by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). For more than 60 years, the ABPP has provided board certification through credential review and competency-based examination processes for psychologists. As such, the letters ABPP document attainment of the highest level of 100 THE POLICE CHIEF/AUGUST 2011 recognition of competence within a psychological specialty. Competency and the assessment of it have been the focus of the ABPP since it was established in 1947 through the sponsorship of the American Psychological Association (APA). Initially, the ABPP offered board certification in clinical and counseling psychology. Today, with the emergence of new specialties, there are a total of 14 ABPP affiliated specialties. As the specialty of police psychology has grown in terms of practice, research, and scientific knowledge, an initiative was organized to achieve formal professional recognition of the specialty. Members of the IACP Police Psychological Services Section collaborated with members of two other national professional police psychology organizations2 to define the practice of police and public safety psychology, identify the scientific knowledge base, and designate basic benchmarks of competence. This effort initially resulted in the recognition of police psychology by the APA Committee on Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Psychology in 2008. Subsequently, following an extensive period of self-study and public comment, the ABPP Board of Trustees voted unanimously in 2010 to accept the American Board of Police and Public Safety Psychology’s (ABPPSP’s) application to be its 14th specialty board. The significance of this development for police agencies, law enforcement personnel, police psychologists, and the public is the subject of this article. The fundamental difference between licensure and board certification relates to the differences between general knowledge and training in psychology, specific knowledge of a specialty, and competence in the practice of that specialty. As professional psychology grew during the past century, efforts to regulate the profession and provide for consumer protection led to the establishment of licensure. Although some jurisdictions make a licensure distinction between health service providers and those who practice in nonhealth service settings, in most jurisdictions, licensure as a psychologist is generic, not specialty specific. As such, licensure provides basic assurance that a psychologist is sufficiently educated and knowledgeable to practice psychology in general. However, the review and examination process required for licensure as a psychologist typically is based on the assessment of general psychological knowledge as opposed to specific knowledge and competency in any specialty practice area. A specialty is a defined area of psychological practice that requires advanced scientific and theoretical knowledge germane to the specialty, as well as competence in advanced professional applications of this knowledge to problems and populations in particular settings. As specialties emerge in psychology, professionals define the knowledge and skills required for specialized practice, and consumers seek to be better able to identify competent psychologists within specialty areas.3 Competence is a core expectation within a profession. Many professions—among them medicine, law, and psychology—have established methods to evaluate and recognize competence. Similarly, the APA ethics code4 addresses consumer protection and states that one should practice within one’s area of competence. Some competencies (i.e., foundational competencies) may be common to all specialties (e.g., professionalism and ethical and legal standards) while others (that are functional competencies) are those that relate to the practice of a specific specialty and require specific knowledge and experience. In this regard, it also is important to differentiate between general experience and competence; consider that a professional may be generally wellexperienced but not necessarily knowledgeable or competent in the practice of a specialty. Board certification of police psychologists is an outgrowth of this attention to competence and consumer protection. It serves as one method for addressing competency to provide services in a specialty area. As a way of serving the public and the profession, one of the ABPP’s primary purposes is certifying specialists through competencybased examinations. Licensure versus Board Certification

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Police Chief - August 2011

President Message
Legislative Alert: House Appropriations Votes to Eliminate COPS Program
IACP Foundation: Save the Date for the IACP Foundation Fundraiser
Chief's Council: Selection of Professionals for Fitness-for-Duty Evaluations
Advances & Applications
118th Annual IACP Conference
Police Psycholgists: Roles and Responsibilities in a Law Enforcement Agency
Police Psychologists as Consultants
Assessing the Psychological Suitability of Candidates for Law Enforcement Positions
The Role of Psychological Fitness-for-Duty Evaluations in Law Enforcement
Peer Support Teams Fill an Emotional Void in Law Enforcement Agencies
New Members
Support and Sustain: Psychological Intervention for Law Enforcement Personnel
Board Certification in Police Psychology: What It Means to Public Safety
Technology Talk
Index to Advertisers
Highway Safety Initiatives

The Police Chief - August 2011