Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Falling Back To Earth

I've been reading some interesting stuff about Job Stress and how your occupation actually changes the way you think. This is not related to police work in particular but all different roles. The pressures exerted by management the role itself and by colleagues actually changes your perceptions and behaviours and makes you act in certain ways. It is fascinating stuff and got me thinking about how I might have changed in my views over the years.

I don't know how you would measure it, as we don't do Psychometric testing as a rule. If we did my old friend Dandelion would say we recruit complete psychopaths. We no doubt will have a few lurking in our midst but have they been created by this job? They are outnumbered presently in my opinion by weak willed individuals employed through a catch all recruiting process.

My class at training school completed one of those Psychometric tests just as a laugh. I took it seriously and answered it truthfully. You might know the type, numerous questions where you have to agree or disagree in the strongest terms or not to a particular statement. I can't remember many but your views on religion were sought. I strongly disagreed on that one. There was also one on liking fires - and as I'd set fire to the next door neighbours dustbin as a child I strongly agreed.

It was so long ago that the results were plotted on a graph and shown on an overhead projector, which was cutting edge technology at the time. The instructor showed that most of the class were within the expected range of normality. The only graduate in the class was over on the left with liberal views which was also normal for somebody with that education and thinking. He then moved the sheet to reveal a little cross off the scale on the edge of the universe which was mine. Apparently Genghis Khan should have been where Jupiter was and there was me out alone on Pluto. I like to think I'm different and didn't have any desire to join the rest of the class on planet Earth or the graduate on Mercury. As I'd just left HM forces I don't think that result was actually so shocking. I'd just had three years of ingrained discipline and training put through me and would have followed any order without question, including killing. I had been moulded into what the Army wanted. In reality I painted a lot of things green but that button was there to be pressed.

Several year's later, on my Sergeant's course we did another one. This was a bit different with similar statements but based around Team Task and Individual. To become the ideal manager you had to have a fair balance of three circles overlapping when they were plotted. I'd cheated a bit as I didn't go so strong on the strongly agree or disagrees. The result however showed me as the perfect leader. Looking back I was pretty hot at the time work wise and the personal life was only just going bent.

Ten years further on and I must be due another one. If I'd taken it a couple of years back god only knows what would have shown up. I would like to think I'm actually more centred and open today. As a result I trust nobody and that includes management at work and our government.

I think the only role the police use these for are undercover operatives. I believe there is a 3 hour Psychometric and a psychiatric assessment to be passed before being selected for training. I've often wondered why they don't do this for firearm's roles. I've seen a few "red misters" go onto specialised jobs with guns.

As I near the end of my career I do so a bit battered and bruised both physically and mentally. I am however aware of how I came to be here. My old man always said the job will flog a willing horse till it drops and I think he is right. Hopefully I'll be able to steer a few away from making my mistakes. To do so they will have to change and understand that your job is not your life. You are unlikely to change the world but you can change yourself.


Dandelion said...

Ooh, an honorable mention!

It's not actually me that would say such a thing, but reams and reams of evidence, and not just from the uk.

There is some evidence that being in the police makes you more authoritarian over time, but then other studies show that it's a question of vocation ie that more authoritarian types tend to be attracted to joining the police than to most other careers.

Either way, this is a bad thing, because indicators of authoritarianism tend to correlate with racism, misogyny, sadism, and all manner of other ills that would intefere with the job.

Stressed Out Cop said...

Indeed -

Authority leading to them and us situation. Funny thing human nature ..

Blue Eyes said...

I am fascinated by the "does your job change your personality" question because I work for a bunch of lunatics. I worry that, if I follow their career path, I will too go mad. But whenever I raise this question people look at me funny, almost as if it's far too late...

Dr Emil Shuffhausen of Vienna said...

I like challenges and I am villing to take on your case, Blue Eyes. Morbis fenster is particularly fascinating with its classic underlying symptoms of 'lunatic employers' and 'people looking at me funny'.

Now it is going to be painful but I am sure zat I vill find a cure.

Dandelion said...

No, I don't mean Authority. I mean authoritariansim, as in the personality trait.

Metcountymounty said...

On my first day on team my new skipper gave me his speech, I won't go through the whole thing but he gave me his three rules -

Trust nobody, assume nothing, check everything.

They've saved my neck - quite literally more than a few times over the years and is the perfect way to view an investigation.

I believe they do psychometric testing for firearms in the Met, its part of the reason that gives them a low success rate on applications, with fitness, diversity and drills being the others.

I would certainly agree that Policing (in fact, all the emergency services and armed forces) do attract certain personality types more than most other jobs. While they do have some negatives as Dandelion suggests, they also give a great deal of positives such as mental discipline, detachment, team working, lateral thinking, persistence and resilience, all of which you need to be able to do our respective jobs for more than a couple of years without killing yourself - or someone else. Good training, supervision and self discipline are absolutely required to prevent the negatives getting anywhere.

I get on really well with my GP (he was an army combat medic prior to taking his MD and son of a Police officer) and during a recent chat we were discussing Policing and traits and he said "when I was at med school we would regularly talk about jobs and who is attracted to them. I've always said that if you get a group of coppers, squaddies, ambos or firemen together I guarantee you some or most will have one of five things - OCD, ADHD, knackered feet or knees, insomnia or liver dysfunction"

Looking at the guys and girls on my team alone we definitely have some of them!!

By the way, sociopaths or psychopaths don't care what others think about them or even care if they are that way. If they applied to the Police in the first place they wouldn't stay in very long given what you have to give up for other people you don't know or care about.

Stressed Out Cop said...


You WILL become just like them

Dr Evil



Hope you are well. Missing your blog and input.

Interesting points you make. I'm convinced some jobs grind you down and ours is one of them.

I like ABC too .. it works

Assume nothing
Believe Nobody
Check everything


Dandelion said...

MCM - you missed out rectal dysfunction.

The latter point you make tells me you don't quite know what psycho/sociopathy actually is.

Stressed Out Cop said...

I didn't .. I've just had to goggle it

Blue Eyes said...

"The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath is somewhat blurred...Many use the terms sociopathy, psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder (APD) interchangeably. Professionals not only dispute whether there is a difference between a sociopath and a psychopath, but among those that believe there is a difference, there is dispute over what those differences are"

Well I'm glad that's cleared up!

I suspect that MCM was talking about "people with no empathy" wouldn't last long in the job.

As for talking out of their backsides, are coppers more adept than anyone else?

Metcountymounty said...

Dandelion, admittedly I preferred psychophysiology and critical incident related psychological trauma over personality disorders, but I've studied enough to know what they are thanks.

Dandelion said...

If you know what they are, MCM, then you'll know that they would be no barrier to a successful police career.

Metcountymounty said...

With extremely intrusive supervision possibly but not for long. I think you seriously under estimate how much we have to give up and put into our job for little or no reward, that in itself would mean that the majority if not all of socio/psychopaths who did successfully apply wouldn't stay more than a couple of years, as I said. They don't care about other people, their feelings or their needs and they are very unlikely to display any sympathy, empathy or desire to help someone else if they get nothing back.