Police and Public Safety

Police and public safety psychology is concerned with assisting law enforcement and other public safety personnel and agencies in carrying out their missions and societal functions with effectiveness, safety, health and conformity to laws and ethics.

It consists of the application of the science and profession of psychology in four primary domains of practice:

  • Assessment.
  • Clinical intervention.
  • Operational support.
  • Organizational consultation.

Specialized Knowledge 

Police and public safety psychology requires, at a minimum, distinctive knowledge of the following: essential functions of police and public safety organizations and personnel, working conditions unique to their respective positions, common and unusual stressors in public safety work, normal and abnormal adaptation to occupational stress and trauma, research related to resilience and recovery in public safety personnel, and the unique aspects of confidentiality and testimonial privilege when providing services to public safety personnel and/or agencies.

Problems Addressed 

The common problem areas in each domain of practice addressed through graduate courses, structured pre/postdoctoral placements, CE courses, and/or supervised employment include:

  • Assessment issues.
  • Intervention issues.
  • Operational issues.
  • Consultation issues.

Skills & Procedures Utilized 

Police and public safety psychology intervention strategies primarily include short-term cognitive behavioral treatments and approaches. Training also includes review of research regarding the relative efficacy as well as the limitations of post crisis interventions unique to law enforcement personnel (e.g., post-shooting incidents, line-of-duty deaths, deep undercover stress reactions, etc.). In addition, various modalities of treatment and programs are typically integrated within the training (e.g. peer support teams, EMDR, suicide intervention training, wellness coaching, etc.). Preparation for practice in operational psychology includes review of research in:

  • Crisis intervention.
  • Hostage negotiation.
  • Criminal profiling.
  • Psychological autopsy.
  • Epidemiological factors affecting outcomes of various tactical situations.

Population Served 

The primary populations served by police and public safety psychologists are employees of law enforcement and public safety agencies.