Police departments often call on psychologists' expertise for help with stress management issues and other traditional mental health services.
But psychologists have much more to offer police departments, including help with strategic planning and organizational changes within departments, facilitating community focus groups, assessing officers at midcareer, reducing police suicides, assisting injured and disabled officers and providing training programs to help officers deal with the mentally ill, particularly the homeless.
In an APA Annual Convention meeting with police chiefs from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, psychologists gave an overview of the services that could help police better protect their communities and employees. Representatives from the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Executive Research Forum and APA's Div. 18 (Psychologists in Public Service) also participated in the meeting, which was organized by APA's Committee on Urban Initiatives.
Similar roundtables were held at APA's 1998 Convention in San Francisco and APA's 1999 Convention in Boston.
One area of psychological skill that police may know little about is psychologists' research, said Ellen Scrivner, PhD, deputy director for community policing development in the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services Office.
"Psychology has the capacity to conduct research to better understand and identify strategies that work as well as those that don't work within communities and police departments," she said.
The police chiefs also identified several areas where they would like more input from psychologists, such as assistance in developing screening tools for recruiting diverse candidates or preventing police suicides. Police are also interested in research on how officers respond to fear on the job.