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Selection of Entry-Level Corrections Officers: Pennsylvania Research

NCJ Number
Public Personnel Management Volume: 30 Issue: 3 Dated: Fall 2001 Pages: 377-418
Charles F. Sproule; Stephen Berkley
Date Published
42 pages
This article traces the 20-year evolution of procedures used to assess candidates for employment as entry-level corrections officers in Pennsylvania.
The authors summarize Pennsylvania's corrections officer trainee (COT) selection procedures, reviewing how the procedures have evolved over the years. The article describes three criterion-related validation studies and 10 years of adverse-impact analysis studies for COTs. It describes the development, use, and validation of video-based assessment and summarizes data on subgroup differences by race and gender on various tests and the results of test fairness analyses. A literature review on the use of personality tests to predict violent behavior is summarized, followed by the description of a project for the development and validation of physical-ability tests and medical employment guidelines. Research on the cognitive and physical abilities tests developed to screen candidates for employment as entry-level corrections officers confirms that the State Civil Service Commission has been successful in achieving four goals: job relatedness, validity, fairness, and cost effectiveness. The use of video-based tests is expanding in Pennsylvania and has allowed efficient measurement of job requirements previously assessed with more administratively expensive testing procedures. Generally, the video format has decreased score differences between Blacks and whites on the written examination. Pennsylvania's civil service testing for entry-level jobs has moved from the use of general cognitive ability tests in the 1960's and 1970's to use of job-specific tests in the 1980's and 1990's. The authors believe this is a major reason for the lack of successful litigation regarding the entry-level written tests in the 1980's and 1990's. 18 tables and 50 notes