Using evidenced-based research to select effective covert officers

Miss Monica Semrad1

1Australian Federal Police , Sydney, Australia, 2University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia

In Australia, as in many jurisdictions around the world, police use deception to gain intelligence, to prevent offences from occurring, and to solve crimes. Where deception is used, the risks to the investigation and to the safety of police officers increases, especially for undercover operatives and teams managing informants, as fictitious stories exposed by suspects could lead to retaliation against police. Success in covert fields relies on the believability of police in fictious roles, yet the effective use of deception by police in covert fields of policing and criminal interviews remains relatively underexplored in the literature and in everyday practice. Current selection processes for police assigned to these areas do not include tests to identify effective ‘liars’, as standardized, reliable tests do not currently exist. Research underway investigates lie- and truth-production ability of three groups (84 university students, 50 Australian police officers-in-training, 52 experienced covert police officers) by exploring their deception and their personality. Importantly results indicate that neither sex nor age are indicators of credibility as a storyteller, supporting broader organisational aims for fairness in selection and cultural change. Further, undesirable traits such as Machiavellianism also have no relationship with either truth or lie production. Other results indicate extraversion, social skills, sentimentality and diligence are key to deception success. Implementation of deception capability tests prior to training provides police with an evidence-based, low-cost method of improving operational safety and effectiveness, thereby reducing exposure of covert training, methodology and assets.


Bio to come

Australia & New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing

The Australia & New Zealand Society of Evidence Based Policing (ANZSEBP) was formed in April 2013 in Brisbane, Australia. The ANZSEBP is a police practitioner-led Society. The mission of the ANZSEBP is to develop, disseminate and advocate for police to use scientific research (“the evidence”) to guide best practice in all aspects of policing. The ANZSEBP Chairperson serves on the Executive Board of the British Society of Evidence Based Policing, ensuring that the ANZSEBP works cooperatively with an international group of police to advance evidence based policing.

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