PORT ALLEN — The Police Department is having difficulty filling three full-time positions because candidates cannot seem to pass a psychological exam mandated by the company that insures the agency, Police Chief Ken Bates said.
Last week, Bates told Mayor Roger Bergeron and the City Council that his confidence in the Matrix Test had “depleted” after two candidates he felt were highly qualified to join his police force recently failed the exam.
Bates said one candidate has more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement and was honorably discharged from the military.
“I’ve spoken with other chiefs that have the same concerns,” Bates said. “While I understand their test is designed to get the right people, I don’t know if it pertains to each and every person on an individual basis.”
The Matrix Test is a psychological exam administered through Matrix Inc.
The company provides psychological and risk management services to “public and private safety and security agencies, including members of law enforcement, firefighters, corrections and nuclear communities,” according to its website.
The services include “post-offer pre-employment new candidate evaluations, fitness for duty evaluations, specialized police psychology training and consultation for qualified mental health professionals, critical incident debriefings and specialized training for public safety executives.”
Jerry Cronin, general manager for Risk Management, said the test is a psychological and liability evaluation that gauges a person’s mental stability and predicts his performance capabilities in demanding jobs like law enforcement.
Cronin said his company uses the test as an underwriting tool to limit its exposure to liability for the people it insures. He said the test has a 13 percent to 14 percent failure rate.
“It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person; it just means they might not perform well on the job,” he said.
Cronin added that 20 percent of the people who pass the Matrix Test are flagged with potential job risks that can be addressed through training recommendations.
“We don’t make a hire or fire decision,” he said. “That’s up to the (employer). If he feels like he can’t deal with a particular issue or doesn’t have the special training available, he may not hire the person.”
Anyone who fails the Matrix exam must wait a year before he can retake it, Bates said.
“We’re running into difficulties,” Bates said. “That’s the reason I had to stand before the council and explain why these jobs aren’t being filled.”
In June, Bates asked the council if he could readvertise the vacant positions until July because he had not received applications from any viable candidates.
Last week, Bates asked council members if he could advertise the job openings indefinitely as he continues his search.
The council unanimously granted Bates’ request.
Bates said that despite the shortage, the 16 full-time officers on the force have been effectively patrolling the city and “gathering information” on pending investigations. The chief said, overall, the city’s crime rate has declined despite a “slight” increase in burglaries.
The mayor said he sympathizes with the chief’s dilemma but also understands why Risk Management uses the test.
And since the city cannot afford to change insurance providers in the near future, Bergeron has asked the chief to look into possibly recruiting agencies that could help fill the positions.
“I don’t know of any, but certainly we need to be at full staff to maximize the effectiveness of the police force,” Bergeron said.
“The unknown to me is that if we’re having difficulty getting recruits to pass, is there something wrong with the test or with the recruits? I don’t know the answer to that.”