Recruiting & Retaining Women – extract
Recruiting & Retaining Women_extract_
A Self-Assessment Guide for Law Enforcement
NATIONAL CENTER FOR WOMEN & POLICING
A Division of the Feminist Majority Foundation
Background Investigations_page 72 (Polygraph_73)
Background investigations can be extremely subjective, creating the possibility for discrimination.
Background investigators with biases against women as law enforcement officers may overstep their boundaries in looking for reasons to disqualify candidates. Some of the unacceptable reasons for disqualifying women candidates may be:
-She was out of the job market for an extended period of time while raising her children.
-She was the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
-She has no law enforcement-related background such as military service, security guard, private investigator, etc.
-She is married to a law enforcement officer.
-She has engaged in sexual relationships outside of marriage.
-She is a lesbian.
-She had an abortion.
-She was on welfare.
-She has poor credit.
-She has a relative with a criminal history.
Background investigators need to take into consideration the fact that many women in our country are single mothers, raising their children with little or no financial support from the fathers. This may result in problems with credit, welfare, etc. Using such criteria as credit ratings or a history of welfare dependency to automatically disqualify candidates may deprive an agency of candidates whose life experience has equipped them with resources, problemsolving skills, and compassion that would make them exemplary community policing officers. On the other hand, some law enforcement agencies have not taken advantage of the opportunity to use the background investigation to screen out persons with a tendency towards violence in their homes or in their everyday life. If properly conducted, background investigations can be one of the most important tools in the selection process.
Possible Solutions, Model Policies and Practices for Background Investigations
A good background investigation is crucial to hiring the right people. Background investigators should have a thorough understanding of the types of persons the chief executive of the law enforcement agency wants to hire. In order to ensure quality background investigations, the issues discussed below should be considered. Background investigators should not make recommendations about hiring. The background investigation report should be a detailed, factual statement of the results of the investigation, allowing the chief executive to make an informed hiring decision. As discussed previously, validation applies to all steps of the selection process, not just to written and physical tests. Thus, at each step of the process, data on pass rates must be kept and validation must be done at any step that has adverse impact.
Screening Background Investigators
Persons to be assigned as background investigators should be carefully selected. They should be screened for potential bias against women as law enforcement officers and for other biases that would prevent them from performing an accurate and fair investigation. A panel of experts in an oral interview procedure may do this screening or a qualified psychologist may do it. Any person who has participated in discriminatory or harassing behavior should not be selected as a background investigator. The staff assigned to background investigations
should be gender and racially diverse.
Training Background Investigators
Once the investigators have been selected, qualified experts should provide training about discrimination and equal employment opportunity. Training investigators about the types of questions that cannot be asked is mportant. Background investigators should also thoroughly understand the organization’s community policing philosophy and the types of skills and abilities required of a community policing officer.
Format of Investigation
Organizations should develop a format for background investigators to use as a guide for conducting the investigation. This format should include information about how many references to check, when to perform a neighborhood visit, how to order a credit history, and other important steps to perform. Any prohibitions on questions or areas of inquiry should be clearly stated. All background investigations should be documented with a
Criteria for Collecting Data
Explicit, objective guidelines for the collection of information about candidates should be developed and carefully followed. Developing these criteria will require input from legal and personnel experts. If automatic disqualifiers are determined, the criteria for disqualification should be clearly described and explained in writing, for the benefit of the investigators, the candidates, and the hiring authorities. If the organization develops automatic disqualifiers, background investigators should be instructed to check those areas first. The information to be collected should be based on the job description and on a written statement from the department executive that describes the traits of the ideal law enforcement officer. For example, organizations with an emphasis on community policing should
collect information about communication skills, the types of experiences and training of the candidate, the commitment to community service, and the ability to de-escalate violence. Background investigators should be directed to develop information about the candidate’s abilities in these areas.
Screening for Gender Bias
The background investigation should be used as a tool to screen applicants for gender bias against women as law enforcement officers. It can easily be used as a tool to screen out applicants who display negative attitudes towards women as law enforcement officers or towards women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes against women. Specific questions about these issues may be asked of the applicants and of
people who know the applicants.
Some law enforcement agencies use polygraph examinations as a part of their background investigation process. Polygraph tests are particularly useful for determining prior undetected crimes, other serious undetected misconduct in the applicant’s past, or false statements made during the application process. Because of the highly personal nature of the questions posed during the polygraph interview and test, it is critical that agencies be sensitive to race/gender issues which may arise.
Polygraphists should be screened for gender bias and receive formal training in polygraph operation as well as training in cultural sensitivity, interview techniques, and legal require-ments for personnel testing and selection. To ensure the highest level of professionalism, all polygraphists should hold membership in a polygraph association which maintains national standards of practice and should receive continuing education in polygraph techniques and scientific advances.
Both the general areas of inquiry and the specific questions asked during a polygraph test should be directly related to the requirements of the position, and they should be reviewed by the agency’s legal department and approved by the agency head. The questions should be applicable to both male and female candidates alike. Questions that refer to sexual acts should be directed toward undetected criminal activity, and not an exploration of legal sexual activity between consenting adults.
Tests should be monitored periodically (via one-way mirror or closed circuit TV) to ensure that polygraph examiners are consistent and professional. Test charts should be scored by a second examiner (or by computerized scoring software) to control for hidden biases or polygrapher/candidate personality issues. Only the chart results shoulb be reflected in the final score and decision. The polygraphist’s notes should be retained in separate locked files to protect the privacy of the candidate, and only the information necessary to make a hiring
decision should be included in the candidate’s applicant/personnel file.
Large agencies with several polygraphists should make an effort to ensure diversity within the polygraph section. While it is not always possible, or even advisable, to provide candidates with a polygrapher of their same race or gender, the agency should provide a mechanism of appeal for candidates who raise issues of bias. For example, the candidate may be offered an opportunity for a re-test or a specific-issue test conducted by a different
examiner. Even if an examiner of the candidate’s race or gender is not available, the issue may be resolved by a new examiner with a different personality and interview techniques. By requiring periodic statistical reports (monthly, quarterly, yearly) of polygraph testing and results, the agency head will be able to monitor the performance of their testing process.
Other Useful Information for Background Investigations
Screening for Violence and Family Issues
The background investigation should always be used to screen out applicants who have a history of perpetrating spouse or child abuse, sexual harassment, violent behavior, or nonpayment of spousal or child support obligations. Records of restraining orders should be checked. Divorce petitions should also be examined for evidence of the use of violence. The address of the applicant should be checked for instances of 911 calls regarding domestic
violence. Background investigators should understand that sometimes an abuser will file a restraining order against the victim as a means of harassment and as a tool for later use in court. This is especially true in child abuse situations.
Rejections of Applicants Based on Background Issues
Applicants should be told, in general terms, why they were unsuccessful in the background investigation. There is a possibility that they may be able to remedy the situation and reapply at a future date. For example, if the use of credit is an issue, the applicant may be able to work at correcting some credit problems.
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