Police Psychology: Is It a Field for You?
There’s a reason most people think of the police as heroes. Whether responding to a shooting, natural disaster, terrorist attack, or fender bender, police officers help keep us safe and maintain order. It’s not an easy job. But police psychologists across the U.S. are using the principles of forensic psychology to help police departments and officers continue to perform their jobs at the highest level. With a career in police psychology, you can help too. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Forensic Psychology and What Is Police Psychology?
Forensic psychology, simply put, is where psychology and the criminal justice system meet. Those with forensic psychology jobs use the scientific principles of psychology to perform a wide variety of roles such as assisting crime scene investigators, performing forensic assessment of suspects, counseling inmates at correctional facilities, consulting with defense attorneys and prosecutors, helping design crime-prevention programs, and working with police.
Police psychology is the part of forensic psychology that works with police. Police psychologists use the science of psychology to provide a number of important services that support police work, police officers, and police departments.
What Does a Police Psychology Job Entail?
Police psychologists can perform a variety of roles within law enforcement. The most common tasks of police psychologists include:
- General counseling of police officers: Police officers experience a lot of on-the-job stress. A recent study showed that this stress puts officers at a higher risk for suicide and for developing medical conditions such as metabolic syndrome, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and brain cancer.1 To help officers cope with and avoid the health consequences of stress, police psychologists offer counseling services designed specifically for the needs of law enforcement.
- Helping police officers learn to deal with life-or-death situations: According to investigative reporting by The Washington Post, 987 people were shot and killed by U.S. police in 2017.2 While shootings occur in only a small fraction of police encounters with civilians, minimizing police shootings is a priority for police departments around the nation. Police psychologists help with this effort by training police officers to properly assess/identify potential threats and respond in ways that protect the lives of police and citizens.
- Helping police officers avoid or overcome PTSD: From responding to murder scenes and fatal traffic accidents to subduing violent criminals, police officers often witness and/or experience traumatic events. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that studies show anywhere from 19% to 34% of police officers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).3 Since PTSD is potentially debilitating, police psychologists work with officers on strategies for handling traumatic events and for overcoming the symptoms of PTSD.
- Helping police departments hire good officers: Experts in policing believe ideal police officers exhibit initiative, a sense of ethics, respect and knowledge of laws, communication skills, common sense, civility, a service mentality, humility, a controlled temper, and a thirst for new knowledge.4 By assisting with the interview process and developing written tests that assess character and personality, police psychologists help police departments find and hire officers who possess the right traits.
- Assisting in interrogations and negotiations: Not everyone in police psychology focuses on the mental health and stability of police officers. Some help the police solve crimes and prevent tragedies. For example, police psychologists who specialize in interrogation help interview and/or interpret the interviews of suspects and victims. Other police psychologists, who are trained in negotiation, help defuse hostage situations.
Which Type of Psychology Degree Can Help You Start a Police Psychology Job?
Police psychology can be one of the most rewarding careers in psychology. If you think it’s the right career path for you, then you should consider earning an MS in Forensic Psychology with a specialization in Police Psychology. Through this specialized master’s program in forensic psychology, you can gain the skills you need to help the police do their job better.
Are you worried you don’t have time to earn a master of science in forensic psychology? Online education offers a solution. When you earn an MS in Forensic Psychology online, you don’t have to worry about living near a campus or rearranging your schedule to attend class. Instead, a forensic psychology online program allows you to study from home and on a flexible schedule designed for working adults. With such a high level of convenience, online learning has made it more possible than ever to complete a graduate program in forensic psychology.
If you want to start or advance a career in police psychology, the right online psychology degree can give you the education you need.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Forensic Psychology program with a specialization in Police Psychology online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
1 Source: www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2012/07/13532.html
2 Source: www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2017
3 Source: www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cop-doc/201706/cops-and-ptsd-0
4 Source: https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/perspective/perspective-characteristics-of-an-ideal-police-officer
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