Psychology testing for recruits unlikely

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am

Police say effectiveness of analysis uncertain

Psychological testing of police recruits is unlikely to be introduced in the near future following doubts about its accuracy, according to a senior officer.

Questions about the psychological condition of officers were raised after off-duty constable Tsui Po-ko shot and killed a fellow policeman and wounded another in a Tsim Sha Tsui underpass in 2006.

The case prompted a study on the feasibility of introducing psychometric testing for recruits. Tsui was shot dead during the incident.

Former deputy commissioner Gordon Fung Siu-yuen said in January that the test might also be applied to serving officers.

But his successor, Andy Tsang Wai-hung, told a meeting of Police Inspectors' Association members in February that the force had not changed its recruitment policy.

'He told us that psychometric testing is not a feasible option, given doubts over its accuracy,' association head Tony Liu Kit-ming said.

Chief Inspector Liu said the association was concerned about the effectiveness of such tests. 'It cannot 100 per cent reveal individuals' personality traits, which means there remains possibilities to let in someone with psychological problems.'

Meanwhile, lawmaker James To Kun-sun, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, warned such a test could give rise to legal disputes as it could be seen as discriminatory. 'The scientific reasoning [for psychometric testing] is inadequate and the assertions, which reveal only the possibilities of a person's character, can be severely challenged.'

Lee Sing, director of the Hong Kong Mood Disorders Centre, said such tests would be unreliable if they were conducted on a self-reporting basis - where candidates were only required to fill in questionnaires. 'It is best as an aid to personal assessment by qualified psychologists but that can be very expensive and time-consuming,' he said.

Dr Lee also said that most tests were devised in the west and simply copying them would not be adequate because of cultural differences.

The force - which has five clinical psychologists who cater to 27,000 officers and help in investigations - would have to strengthen its psychological team if it were to assess recruits.

Last year, the force hired 132 probationary inspectors and 1,200 constables. This year, police have a budget to hire 105 probationary inspectors and 750 constables.

A police source said there was no budget for extra manpower to run psychological tests, but the idea had not been dumped. At least two more psychologists were needed if psychometric testing was to be incorporated into the recruitment process.

'It will be quite a big expenditure,' the source said.

According to the Civil Service Bureau, a police clinical psychologist is paid HK$34,895 a month on entry. Candidates must have a master's degree or postgraduate diploma in clinical psychology.

Police recruits in countries such as the United States and Australia are subject to psychological assessment.

Cry for help

The number of police officers who sought the assistance of clinical psychologists between 2005 and 2007 is: 607