Port Authority Police Candidates With Law Enforcement Jobs Failing Psych Test at Alarming Rate

They’re good enough to wear an NYPD or state police shield, but they’re mentally unfit to protect the Holland Tunnel.

More than 70% of the men and women hoping to join the Port Authority Police Department and who have passed the written exam are being turned down because, the agency says, they failed the psychological exam — even though many of the applicants already have jobs in the New York Police Department, the state police and other law enforcement agencies, the Daily News has learned.

The reject pile numbers in the thousands.

“They are dropping people left and right and blaming it on the psychological exam,” said a high-ranking law enforcement source with knowledge of the Port Authority’s vetting process. “Some of the people being dismissed are already cops. What does that say about the agency that hired them?

“If you’re coming up with numbers like that, you really need to look at yourself — there is something wrong with your system,” the source said.

The massive failure rate on the psychological test has been trending for several years, sources said.

Historically, upward of 20,000 applicants a year take the Port Authority Police Department written exam to be part of the force that police the airports, PATH trains, Midtown bus terminal and bridges and tunnels linking New York to New Jersey — all high profile terror targets.

The exam is graded on a curve, depending on how many people the Port Authority needs, but 65% of the test-takers usually pass — about 13,000.

Out of that number, about 9,100 are usually dismissed from the running for failing the agency’s psychological exam, sources said.

“(That’s) double or triple that of any other law enforcement agency that we are aware of,” said Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association. “It seems almost impossible that there could be a legitimate medical need to fail that many candidates.”

The psychological exam is a standard questionnaire based on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a test used throughout the country to gauge mental health, followed by an interview with a psychologist.

Many of the people the Port Authority found to be too off-balance to protect the George Washington Bridge include New York and New Jersey cops — sparking a major ethical concern.

“If they determine that someone is unfit to be a Port Authority police officer and they already carry a gun, they should be obligated to inform the agency that person works for, but they don’t,” the high-ranking source said.

Those being dismissed also include decorated veterans, according to Robert Egbert, the benevolent association’s spokesman.

“We are concerned about the lack of veterans becoming Port Authority police officers,” Egbert said. “It seems the Port Authority is hiding behind a subjective exam and saying to these courageous men and women, ‘You are not good enough.’”

John, a New Jersey cop drummed out of the Port Authority Police Department vetting process, said he “didn’t know what to think” when he was given the news that he failed the psychological exam.

The shock was understandable: John, who asked that his last name be withheld, works in his department’s special victims unit, where he investigates sexual assaults and interviews rape victims.

“I already work in probably one of the most stressful units in law enforcement and they tell me I’m not cut out for this job,” he said. “It just didn’t add up. Why wouldn’t they hire someone who has experience in stressful situations?”

The Port Authority initially refused to comment on the odds-defying trend, demanding The News seek answers through the Freedom of Information Law. A FOIL request for documents regarding Port Authority Police Department vetting was quickly denied.

On Friday, the Port Authority acknowledged that “failure numbers in the most recent class were higher than average.”

“(It’s) a reflection of some reforms put in place to date,” the agency said in a statement. “The Port Authority’s ambition is to have the highest-quality police force possible. In pursuit of that ambition, the agency has been reviewing the selection process for police recruits.

“The review and revision process for police recruitment standards is currently midstream, with multiple aspects still being studied and under consideration,” the PA said. “Medical and psychological standards are among those still being reviewed, with the goal of implementing a revised set of standards in early 2018.”

The Port Authority outsources psychological testing to a private company, the name of which is a closely guarded secret.

“We have no idea who they are. The police are not involved in that side of it at all,” said the high-ranking source. “If we ask, the Port Authority tells us, ‘It’s none of your business.’”

Experts say outsourcing the psych exams could lead to the skewed test numbers.

“Private companies have a vested interest in accommodating their clients. What happens, unfortunately, is that they may target certain answers and weed out candidates that a psychologist steeped in the law enforcement culture may see differently,” said Daniel Rudofossi, a licensed psychologist who was once clinical director for the NYPD Medical Division’s Membership Assistance Program.

When John was told he was medically barred from becoming a Port Authority cop, he appealed. He was then sent a form letter claiming he did not “meet the psychological requirements.”

“This does not mean you are not qualified for other positions within or outside of the Port Authority or any other endeavors you choose to pursue,” the letter said.

“I don’t understand it,” the high-ranking source said about the failure rate. “They’re just molding their applicant numbers to whatever they think they need that given year.”

The Port Authority can be overly selective because it hires so few applicants. Only 120 cadets were welcomed into the Port Authority Police Academy in January. After 26 weeks of study and physical training, 83 of them graduated July 28.

The Port Authority currently has 1,657 rank-and-file police officers. The entire Port Authority Police Department — including supervisors — tops out at 2,045.

Eugene O’Donnell, a retired NYPD cop and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the Port Authority shouldn’t use the psych exam as a catch-all excuse for dismissing candidates.

“They use a psychological exam as a rubber stamp,” O’Donnell said. “But it comes with a stigma when all they are saying is, ‘You don’t work for us.’

“It’s not about sanity and it’s not about fitness,” he said. “Just because they deem someone unsuitable for their agency, that does not make them insane or dangerous.”

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com

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Filming Cops
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Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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