- Associated Press - Thursday, December 14, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minneapolis Police Department reduced the psychological tests it gives to new recruits from five to one as it relied in recent years on a psychiatrist with no previous experience in law enforcement psychology, according to a report broadcast Thursday.

The department’s recruiting and training practices have been questioned since an officer killed an unarmed 911 caller when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home this summer. Officer Mohamed Noor has refused to say publicly why he shot Justine Ruszczyk Damond, and the county attorney is still deciding whether to charge him. The fallout led to the resignation of then-police Chief Janee Harteau.

There is no way to know whether Noor’s psychological makeup played a role his decision to pull the trigger, or whether any screening could have detected such an inclination, according to APM Reports , an investigative unit of Minnesota Public Radio. But the protocol used with Noor and 200 other new officers during the past five years is less extensive than in comparable cities and other Minnesota agencies. It’s also less rigorous than national best practices.

Starting in 2012, Minneapolis eliminated four of the five psychological tests it was using, even though a Justice Department study found that some of the tests had been effective. And over the past 15 years, APM Reports found, Minneapolis has fired some of the most qualified police psychologists in Minnesota, then turned to a succession of mental health professionals with little or no experience in the specialty.

For the past five years Minneapolis has relied on Dr. Thomas Gratzer, a psychiatrist who cut the tests from five to one. His resume shows no experience in law enforcement psychology.

New Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told APM Reports he had no concerns about any officers Gratzer approved. Going forward, though, he said the city will follow state regulations requiring a licensed psychologist to give officers the green light.

Minneapolis is in the process of replacing Gratzer. Officials including Harteau said they decided to replace Gratzer because he screened out a large percentage of minority applicants.

Gratzer did not respond to four interview requests by APM Reports.

Like most states, Minnesota allows local departments to decide their own screening protocols. By contrast, California has created a 200-page manual widely regarded as a set of best practices. It calls for at least two tests, one to weed out unstable candidates, the other to identify applicants who would be a good fit.

Minneapolis has offered the job to Jan Tyson Roberts, a licensed psychologist who acknowledges she has never screened aspiring police officers. She hasn’t decided what tests she’ll administer, but said there will be more than one.

“It’s never a good idea to only use one test,” she said. “You always want to use collateral information when you’re making a decision as important as that.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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