By Larry Eggert
I have been watching with some confusion the recent debate in The Buffalo News regarding psychological testing of prospective police officers in the City of Buffalo. As such, I would like to offer an alternate perspective on the issue.
Almost 10 years ago, we hired Dr. Jay Supnick to perform the psychological testing of police candidates in the City of Lockport. He was hired after our research showed he was a top professional in the field of psychological testing for public safety employment. In fact, a review of his qualifications illustrate that he essentially helped write the book on psychological testing for the public safety field and, in my view, is a national expert.
Supnick conducts comprehensive examinations that include written tests coupled with follow-up personal interviews to flesh out negative personal trends and tendencies identified in the written tests. Why is it important to test potential police officers for these negative tendencies? Because a significant part of our day as police officers is spent interacting with people in crisis due to emotional/personal problems, mental health issues or rendered incapable of making good decisions due to drug/alcohol problems. People in this vulnerable state look to the police for help and guidance and could easily be manipulated by an unscrupulous person.
The good news is that a great majority of prospective police officers are dedicated to their profession. However, choosing the wrong person to interact with this vulnerable group of people could have the most catastrophic consequences not only for the victims, but also any police department as a whole.
How does Supnick (or any psychologist) discover these negative human tendencies that we ask him to find? He does this by asking sensitive and direct questions of each potential police officer that would be difficult or impossible to ask in a standard interview process.
How effective are these psychological tests? During my years as chief of police, there were a number of occasions where Supnick would identify serious personality flaws, integrity issues or substance abuse concerns that were not discovered in our extensive police background investigations. I was always amazed how accurate his psychological assessments could be and had the utmost trust in both his procedures and opinions. It is important to note that during our 10-year collaboration, we never received one single complaint about the performance of Supnick.
I hope the perspective I have offered in this letter gives the community a better understanding of psychological testing for police officers and a clearer picture of the attributes of Dr. Jay Supnick. Armed with this personal knowledge, I would recommend the services of Supnick and his associates to anyone without hesitation.
Larry Eggert is a retired chief of the Lockport Police Department.