POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


SELECTION OF STUDENTS FOR THE STUDY OF POLICE CRIMINALISTICS

Dragica Kozaric-Kovačic, Tajana Ljubin

The key question in the selection of students for the university curricula, i.e. the selection for a certain profession is the question of selection criteria.

Success in the secondary school has proved to be insufficiently predictive for the success in the future profession of the students, as well as the success during the university schooling. Moreover, multiple-choice tests used to assess the knowledge during the entrance exam have proved unsatisfactory because they do not test the personality traits of the examinees. This latter is particularly important for the selection of candidates for specific police professions (criminalists, special police, traffic police, etc.).

Since 1990, our school uses a complex entrance examination for the selection of a large number of candidates, with the aim to select the most appropriate personality profile. Here we present the results of the entrance exam in the 1995/1996 school year and the retest results for the group of 110 regular first year students chosen at random. The entrance examination comprised several tests of knowledge, personality questionnaires (EPI and IVE), and one test of non-verbal intelligence (test of logical comprehension of successive elements), test of psychomotor abilities, and the evaluation of the success in the secondary school. The same students were retested at the end of the school year by several questionnaires.

The results of the entrance examination and the re-test were compared with each other, as well as with the success in the first year of study, in order to assess the validity of the applied measuring instruments and other criteria in the entrance selection of the students.

INTRODUCTION

Entrance exams include two main professional dilemma: 1) how to select the candidates for certain occupations, and 2) which criteria to use. Entrance exams are customary at the Zagreb University and are usually in the form of knowledge tests. The selection of candidates is usually based on their success in the secondary school and the score on the entrance knowledge test. In the last few years there has been an ongoing debate at the University about the criteria used in entrance exams, their sufficiency, and the need to introduce additional criteria. The question is whether some specific selection criteria are needed in addition to the general ones, i.e. which criteria should those be for some specific occupations. Of course, it is very difficult to define and choose the specific criteria for individual occupations; it would be easier to define some general characteristics. Most of the entrance exams in Croatia are based on such approach.

One of the exceptions is the entrance to the Police college, which evaluates not only the secondary school success and the score on the knowledge test, but also the scores on personality questionnaires, intelligence test, and tests of motor and physical fitness and skills. The occupation of a policemen is very complex, their duties often very stressful, which calls for the selection of adequate personality profile, i.e. exclusion of unwanted personality traits. This occupation also call for a certain level of motor skill and physical fitness.

Besides this, it is also very important to make a selection of candidates according to the established educational program which includes a limited number of students, since the interest for the study of criminalistics is very high.

Entrance exam is very complex organizational, but also emotional procedure. It is often very stressful for the candidate, and this brings the dilemma if the questionnaires are always objective in such situation, i.e. which tests (methods) are most adequate. Also, there is a question whether the secondary school success is predictive for the success during the university study. Unfortunately, although entrance exams have been in use for a very long time, there is very little literature on the letter issue. Some investigations showed that the success in mathematics during the secondary schooling, and the level of general knowledge were predictive of the success during the study.

Short description of educational scheme at Police College

The education program of the Police College is divided into two main curricula: 1) a four-year study (for the best students) for the title and profession of "bachelor of criminalists", and 2) stage study with the program for a "criminalist", lasting 5 semesters. The additional education after the 5th semester for the title of "bachelor of criminalists" is also possible, after working as an active police officer, and it lasts additional 4 semesters. The decision for the two curricula is made at the end of the 4th semester, so that the students with an average mark higher than 3.5 can go right to the bachelor program without any stage studying. Other students finish the curriculum for the criminalists and enter active duty. After such duty, regulated by the rules of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Police College, the students may come back for additional education and obtain the title of "bachelor of criminalistics". Both curricula may be studied regularly or along with the employment.

The study at Police College is available for police officers as well as for civilians, both for men and women.

This work was made as a pilot study for broader validation study of some criteria being used at entrance examination and selection. The aim of this paper was also to enter the discussion of the other experiences in the selection of candidates for the study of criminalistics.

METHODS

Subjects

The study encompassed 110 regular first year students chosen at random. Seventy-nine students entered the study as civilians and 31 as police officers. The mean age of the civilian students was 19.83 ± 0.92, indicating high homogeneity of the group according to their age. The mean age of the police officer students was 24.07 ± 4.58. This group was not of such homogeneity to their age and age ranged from 19 to 35. In the group of the civilian students there were 44 males and 35 females. In the group of the police officer students there were only three females, which were not included in the subsequent analysis.

Measuring Instruments for personality traits and intelligence

For the entrance exam, we used Eysenck Personality Inventory (Eysenck and Eysenck, 1964) Form A for measuring extroversion and neuroticism; Impulsiveness-Venturesomeness- Empathy Inventory for measuring impulsiveness, venturesomeness and empathy (Eysenck and Eysenck, 1978), and non-verbal intelligence test used to measure the ability of appreciating logical connection between symbolic tests and concrete relationships (Vonkomes and Migliesine, 1973).

For the retesting during the first year, we used Eysenck Personality Inventory, form B, and Impulsiveness-Venturesomeness-Emphaty Inventory in the same form.

Testing Procedure

The measuring instruments were applied to all candidates during the entrance examination. Retesting was done on a random sample of students, as described above, one year after the entrance exam for the civilian students, and 8 months after the entrance exam for the police officer students. (Entrance exam for civilians was applied during July of 1995 and for police officers during September of 1995). All subjects retested were informed about the study and consented to enter it.

Predictive variables were:

  1. Total score on the entrance exam, constructed from the success in the secondary school, intelligence test score, knowledge test, skill and fitness score and scores according to the personality variables;
  2. Success in the secondary school, expressed as a average mark for all school years;
  3. Score on the knowledge test during the entrance exam, expressed as the total number of correct answers to questions from Croatian language, physics, chemistry, sociology and Croatian history;
  4. Score on the intelligence test during the entrance exam, expressed as the number of correctly solved items.

Criterion variables of the success during the studies were:

  1. Number of passed exams until the end of the summer semester (30 July 1996);
  2. Average mark from the passed exams until end of summer semester (30 July 1996).

The data on the exams were gathered from the administration archives.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Tables 1and 2 show descriptive parameters for the personality variables and predictor and criterion variables. Table 1 shows that there was no statistical difference between male and female civilian students in any of the personality variables, with risk lower that the 0.01%. Also, there was no statistically significant difference between the male and female civilian students in the predicting and criterion variables, with the risk lower that 0.01%. Therefore, male and female students were taken as a single group in further analysis.

Comparison of the means of the personality variables for the entrance exam and the retesting showed some differences. Table 3 presents analysis of these differences, i.e. t-ratio between means of the personality variables at entrance examination testing and retesting. Most consistent were the differences in the L scale and Extroversion. There was an obvious increase in the L scale for the entrance selection procedure than for the retesting situation. All students, civilian and police officer, gave more socially desirable answers in the situation of selection (entrance examination) than in a non-selection situation (t=7.130, p<0.01 for civilians; t=7.096, p<0.01 for police officer students). This result was not surprising because it has been known that L scale is sensitive to the selection situation, where the subjects tend to make their answers "nicer". It would be interesting to compare this results with the results of the students at other universities, specially because some items of L scale are linked with the law categories which could have different effect on candidates for study of criminalistic than for the other study candidates.

There were also consistent differences for all groups on the Extroversion scale in the direction of the increase of extroversion in the retest situation ((t= -7.928, p<0.01 for civilians; t= -6.821, p<0.01 for police officer students). This finding could be related to the effect of studying, and deserves further investigation.

However, for the group of civilian students there was no statistically significant differences between average scores that students showed at entrance examination and retest on the neuroticism scale (t= -0.389,p>0.05), venturesomeness scale (t= -0.956, p>0.05), impulsivity (t=0.383, p>0.05) and empathy (t=0.489, p>0.05). For the group of police officers there was no statistically significant differences between average scores that students showed at entrance examination and 8 months later retest results on impulsivity (t=-1.257, p>0.05), empathy (t= -1.693, p>0.01) and neuroticism (t= -2.619, p>0.01). However, there was significantly higher venturesomeness at retest for police officers (t= -2.88, p<0.01).

Results show that among personality scales applied extraversion and venturesomeness are the most sensitive scales to the test-retest differences. At this point we could not say if that is due to sensitiveness to the situation of selection, or due to the influence of the study, or both. It seems however, more probably that increase of extraversion and venturesomeness are due to the influence of the study. On the other hand, one could at selection testing expect increasing of the scores of L scale and among personality scales applied diminishing scores on neuroticism scale. Our results show increasing the scores of L scale in situation of selection, but not on neuroticism scale at level of 0.01.

Table 4 shows the correlations between the two testing situations. All correlations were statistically significant for civilians students, except for the L scale (r=0.15, p>0.05). All correlations were statistically significant for police officer students, with the risk less than 0.01%. Lack of statistical significance of the correlation for the L scale means that the rank and relation between the subjects that existed during the entrance selection was no preserved in the retesting situation, i.e. that the subject who had high score during the first testing did not necessarily have a high score during the second testing.

It can be concluded for the L scale that both the civilian and police officer students show higher result on this scale during the selection procedure than during the retesting. Retesting did not show correlation with the selection testing for the civilian students but did for the police officer students.

The comparison of correlation coefficients showed that they were higher for the police officers for most of the personality variables. The correlations coefficients ranged for the police officer students from 0.47 for the impulsivity to 0.64 for the empathy, while for the civilian students they ranged from 0.26 for extroversion to 0.69 for empathy. These levels of correlation indicate a global medium high level of correlation between the results on the personality dimension and traits in the situations of selection and retesting. This suggests that the personality measures obtained during the selection examination could be used for assessing the personality traits of candidates.

It has to be mentioned that, apart from the fact that the situation of testing changed between the two time points, the time between the two testings was different for the civilians (12 months) and police officers (8 months). This opens the possibility of other factors affecting the personality of the subjects, especially those related to the study itself (increase of extraversion). Further longitudinal follow up of the students and retesting after shorter periods of time could provide answers to those questions. The results show that the use of personality questionnaires can be validate as a measure of personality in the selection of the candidates.

The correlation between the predictive and criterion variables is shown in the Table 5 for the civilian students, and in Table 6 for the police officer students. Table 5 shows that there was significant correlation (with the risk less than 0.01% or lower) between the total score of the subject on the entrance exam and both criterion variables, between the success in the secondary school and both criterion variables, and between the score on the knowledge test and both criterion variables. Of all the predictors, the score on the knowledge test had the highest correlation with the average mark from the passed exams (r=0.53, p<0.001) and relatively high correlation with the number of passed exams (r=0.30, p<0.01).

Table 6 shows that there was only one significant correlation for the group of police officer students, that between the knowledge test score on the entrance examination and the criterion variables. The correlation between the knowledge test score was medium high (r=0.53, p<0.01), while the correlation between the knowledge test score and the average mark for all exams was even higher (r=0.73, p<0.001).

In conclusion, it seems that the score on the knowledge test on the entrance examination could be predictive for the success of the students during their first year, i.e. after the summer semester. This is true for both civilian and police officer students. For the civilian students, the total score on the entrance examination, as well as the success in secondary school also have predictive values. However, although these results are encouraging, they are only preliminary since all students were not included, and the school year is not officially finished. Also, there is a question of student success in the following study years.

Table 1. Descriptive statistics (mean±standard deviation) for the personality variables for the civilian and police officer students




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                                  Civilian students                              Police officer 

                                                                                    students

                        Men        Women      t-ratio1      Total                   Men 

                     (N=44)       (N=35)      (df=27)        (N=79)                 (N=31)

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ENTRANCE EXAM:

Extraversion       14.36±3.28   14.74±2.83    -0.54         14.53±3.08            13.00±2.49

Neuroticism         7.27±3.55    6.66±3.95     0.73          7.00±3.72             6.29±4.13

Lie scale           3.27±2.10    4.77±3.52    -2.23          3.94±2.89             4.19±2.34

Impulsiveness       5.57±3.79    5.89±3.40    -0.39          5.71±3.60             4.13±3.37

Venturesomeness    10.52±3.18   11.60±2.50    -1.64          11.0±2.93             9.10±3.77

Empathy            10.07±2.77   10.66±2.95    -0.91         10.33±2.85             9.65±3.06

RETESTING:

Extroversion       17.34±2.35   17.66±2.16    -0.62         17.48±2.26            16.09±2.50

Neuroticism         6.64±2.60    7.80±3.32    -1.75          7.15±2.98             8.14±3.79

Lie scale           1.39±1.33    1.74±1.34    -1.18          1.54±1.33             1.91±1.73

Impulsiveness       5.66±3.73    5.49±4.41     0.19          5.58±4.02             5.64±4.28

Venturesomeness    11.75±3.16   10.89±3.70     1.12         11.37±3.41            10.60±3.34

Empathy             9.68±3.66   10.83±3.14    -1.47         10.19±3.46            10.44±3.08

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Table 2. Descriptive statistics (mean±standard deviation) for predictive and criterion variables


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                                        Civilian students                              Police officer 

                                                                                          students

                              Men        Women      t-ratio1      Total                   Men 

                           (N=44)       (N=35)      (df=27)        (N=79)                 (N=31)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Total score (T)        30.11±5.04   29.66±6.23        0.35     29.91±5.56                 23.05±4.89

School (S)             40.93±3.81   43.14±4.53       -2.36     41.91±4.26                28.95±16.89

Knowledge (K)          27.23±7.34   27.06±8.80        0.09     27.15±7.97                 23.70±7.21

Inteligence test (I)   16.70±5.61   13.66±5.71        2.38     15.35±5.82                 16.45±5.40

Exams (E)               4.52±1.72    5.17±1.65       -1.69      4.81±1.71                  5.00±1.78

Mark (M)                2.92±0383    3.17±0.55       -2.36      3.28±0.48                  2.92±0.46

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

T   -   Total score obtained at entrance exam.

S   -   Average mark from all subjects at secondary school.

K   -   Score obtained at entrance knowledge test.

I   -   Score obtained at entrance inteligence test.

E   -   Number of exams passed until July 30, 1996.

M   -   Average mark from all exams passed until July 30, 1996.

Table 3. t tests between entrace exam and retesting scores for the civilian (N=79) and police officer (N=31) students


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Variable          Civilians           Police officers

                    t ratio                   t ratio

-----------------------------------------------------

Extraversion         -7.9282                 -6.8212

Neuroticism          -0.389                    -2.619

Lie scale             7.1302                  7.0962

Impulsiveness         0.383                    -1.257

Venturesomeness      -0.956                    -2.882

Empathy               0.489                    -1.693

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Table 4. Correlations between entrace exam and retesting scores for the civilian (N=79) and police officer (N=31) students


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Variable         Civilian students         Police officer

                                             students

Extroversion            0.262                0.492

Neuroticism             0.50                   0.513

Lie scale               0.15                   0.653

Impulsiveness           0.593                0.473

Venturesomeness         0.423                0.633

Empathy                 0.693                0.643

---------------------------------------------------------

Table 5. Correlations between predictive and criterion variables for civilian students (N=79)


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                       T          S          K          I          E          M

PREDICTORS:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Total score (T)        1       0.533    0.733    0.723    0.282    0.373

School (S)                     1          0.373    0.09       0.352    0.332     

Knowledge (K)                             1          0.403    0.302    0.533

Intelligence (I)                                     1          0.06       0.09

CRITERIONS:

Exames (E)                                                      1          0.483

Marks (M)                                                                  1

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

T   -   Total score obtained at entrance exam.

S   -   Average mark from all subjects at secondary school.

K   -   Score obtained at entrance knowledge test.

I   -   Score obtained at entrance inteligence test.

E   -   Number of exams passed until July 30, 1996.

M   -   Average mark from all exams passed until July 30, 1996.

Table 6. Correlations between predictive and criterion variables for police officer students (N=31)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       T          S          K          I          E          M

PREDICTORS:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Total score (T)       1       -0.10       0.713    0.763    0.35       0.39

School (S)                     1          0.21       0.01       0.44       0.22

Knowledge (K)                             1          0.49       0.532    0.733

Intelligence (I)                                     1          0.31       0.32

CRITERIONS:

Exames (E)                                                      1          0.58

Marks (M)                                                                  1

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

T   -   Total score obtained at entrance exam.

S   -   Average mark from all subjects at secondary school.

K   -   Score obtained at entrance knowledge test.

I   -   Score obtained at entrance inteligence test.

E   -   Number of exams passed until July 30, 1996.

M   -   Average mark from all exams passed until July 30, 1996.

NOTES

  1. None of the t values were not significant at the level of 0.01%.
  2. p<0.01
  3. p<0.001


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