Appendix B: Formal Assessment of Psychological Fitness for Duty
In addition to performing the initial evaluation of the LEO, the police physician should establish a referral relationship with a psychologist, psychiatrist, neuropsychologist or other licensed mental health professional qualified to offer a formal opinion of the LEO’s psychological fitness for duty. These evaluations should be performed by doctoral level mental health professionals and could include standardized testing. Some agencies may have their own mental health professionals who can perform such evaluations. Police physicians with specific training in this area may choose to do the formal assessment themselves. When available, preference should be given to professionals with formal public safety psychology training. When available, preference should be given to psychiatrists for medication management.
Irrespective of credentials, the mental health professional should not serve dually as the evaluator and therapist or after-action support personnel because of the potential for a conflict or the appearance of a conflict stemming from multiple roles.
In 2018, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Police Psychological Services Section (PPSS) updated a set of guidelines to educate and inform the public safety agencies that request fitness-for-duty evaluations (FFDEs) and the practice of examiners who perform them (see Psychological Fitness-for-Duty Evaluation Guidelines). These guidelines represent an excellent framework for conducting the evaluation.
In advance of referral to a specialist, the police physician should acquaint the evaluator with LEO duties, circumstances and responsibilities, and could provide questions from Appendix D (provider’s questionnaire). Any collateral information provided by the agency for review in the preliminary assessment should also be provided to the specialist. It is the responsibility of the police physician to review the formal assessment from the licensed mental health professional and make final clearance recommendations to the agency. Given the sensitivity of mental health records, the minimum information needed for agency decision-making should be provided to the agency. In Pettus v. Cole, 49 Cal. App. 4th 402 (1996), medical providers were admonished against providing more information derived from evaluation than was actually needed to accomplish legitimate business objectives.