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PSC must get CoP process right

Monday, July 9, 2018

Hearing the pronouncements from the newly constituted Police Service Commission made me feel I was listening to J.K. Rowling giving us a sneak peek into the upcoming sequel of Harry Potter - “Fantastic Beasts and where to find them”.

If a pig is found to have cancer in 95% of its body, do we still consume the 5% that has no cancer, therefore living by the idiomatic expression “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”? A man robs eight banks in PoS but we say his redeeming quality is that at least he didn’t rob the banks in other cities?

The Police Service Commission’s selection process was found to be flawed when trying to select a Commissioner of Police and Deputy Commissioner of Police. The Government has exercised the right approach in sending the selected candidates for the post of CoP and Deputy CoP back to the PSC. The process adopted was good but execution flawed.

International best practice dictates there should be multiple platforms of assessment for senior and critical roles such as these and that there are multiple assessors involved, but assessors are not allowed to be a part of all facets of the assessment phases to prevent creeping subjectivity. Behavioural interview questions are questions about how you have behaved in the past. Most professional assessors operate a standard rating scale against each candidate for each exercise, and then the team of assessors consolidate their findings at the end of the session.

When it can be assumed that the applicants to be tested already have job knowledge and/or skills relevant to the competencies to be assessed (for these roles the short-listed folks were in possession of the preceding), then the followed assessment methods should be employed:

Group exercise – looks at how applicants work with other people.

Fact-finding exercise – looks at an applicant’s ability to interact with someone else and obtain information from him or her.

Role-play – usually involves an assessor acting as an applicant’s client or customer in a simulation of a negotiation exercise, interview or performance appraisal.

In-tray exercise – usually involves a selection of letters, memos and messages that may be received by the position holder.

Presentation – looks at an applicant’s ability to communicate to a group of people. Applicants can be given the topic on the day and should have time to prepare.

Assessment centres can be tailored to each position and allows the selection committee to gain a comprehensive insight as to the suitability of the applicants. An assessment centre can include:

Job simulations – involves applicants completing tasks that would be involved in the position they are applying for.

Presentations – involves applicants giving a presentation on a particular topic. This type of technique is often used in sales and training roles where speaking to groups and presenting information makes up a large part of their job.

Interviews – allows the selection committee to ask applicants specific questions in line with the selection criteria. Interviews are targeted to gather information relevant to key competencies

Team exercises – are often used when communication and interaction skills are a key skill for a position. It allows the selection committee to see how applicants interact in a team environment.

Role-plays – allows the selection committee to see how an applicant performs in a hypothetical situation that may occur as part of the position. It is effective in demonstrating an applicant’s ability to think quickly and logically

Psychometric tests – facilitate comparison in that they are standardised and objective; each candidate is given the same questions, same time frame and the questions allow for objectivity

For these senior positions (CoP and Deputy CoP) assessment centres should be used given the nature or complexity of the position requires the process to identify the best-suited candidate who has the constitution, aptitude and stamina. The benefits are that assessment centres have the highest reliability and validity of different assessment methods;

It facilitates comparison of applicants;

It demonstrates the applicants’ strengths and weaknesses in relation to the specific role;

It ensures objectivity and a merit selection process;

It allows for further differentiation between closely ranked applicants;

It gives the selection committee an opportunity to view on-the-job results;

It allows the selection committee to see how the applicants will fit into the organisational culture and team; and

It allows the selection committee to observe an applicant’s leadership and interpersonal style.

Haste to fill a position must never trump using a fair, transparent and rigorous system to find the best candidate. The newly-appointed Police Service Commission would do well by requesting the additional funding from the Government to redo the process given they wanted it redone, we are sure they would acquiesce. With the alarming state of affairs, this would be on the front burner.



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