Fitness-for-Duty Evaluations, International Chiefs of Police, 2009

Mark Zelig, Ph.D., ABPP:

4325 Laurel Street, Suite 297
Anchorage, Alaska 99508

6925 Union Park Center, Suite 550
Cottonwood Heights, Utah 84047

fax: 866-907-2822

Contact Us using our Online Request Form.

Note:  Dr. Zelig was the co-chair of the committee who wrote the following guidelines:

Psychological Fitness-for-Duty Evaluation Guidelines

Ratified by the IACP Police Psychological Services Section (2009).

1. Purpose

1.1. The IACP Police Psychological Services Section (PPSS) developed these guidelines to educate and inform the public safety agencies that request fitness for-duty evaluations (FFDEs) and the practice of examiners who perform them.

2. Limitations
2.1. These guidelines are not intended to establish a rigid standard of practice for FFDEs. Instead, they are intended to reflect the commonly accepted practices of the PPSS members and the agencies they serve.
2.2. Each of the guidelines may not apply in a specific case or in all situations. The decision as to what is or is not done in a particular instance is ultimately the responsibility of each agency and examiner.
2.3. These guidelines are written to apply to agencies within the jurisdiction of the United States and, as such, may require modification for use by agencies in other countries.

3. Definition
3 .1. A psychological FFDE is a formal, specialized examination of an incumbent employee that results from (1) objective evidence that the employee may be unable to safely or effectively perform a defined job and (2) a reasonable basis for believing that the cause may be attributable to a psychological condition or impairment. The central purpose of an FFDE is to determine whether the employee is able to safely and effectively perform his or her essential job functions.

4. Threshold Considerations
4.1. Referring an employee for an FFDE is indicated whenever there is an objective and reasonable basis for believing that the employee may be unable to safely and/or effectively perform his or her duties due to a psychological condition or impairment. An objective basis is one that is not merely speculative but derives from direct observation, credible third-party report, or other reliable evidence.
4.2. FFDEs necessarily intrude on the personal privacy of the examinee and, therefore, are most appropriately conducted when the employer has determined that other options are inappropriate or inadequate in light of the facts of a particular case. The FFDE is not to be used as a substitute for disciplinary action.
4.3. It is advisable for the agency and examiner to consult before an FFDE commences in order to ensure that an FFDE is indicated in a particular case. In all consultations, the examiner strives to maintain independence and objectivity and avoid undue influences by any of the parties involved in the case.
4.4. In general, mental health professionals refrain from rendering fitness-for-duty opinions when they are not conducting a FFDE, such as when providing debriefings or similar services in the context of an officer-involved shooting or other critical incidents.

5. Examiner Qualifications

5 .1. In light of the nature of these evaluations and the potential consequences to the agency, the examinee, and the public, it is important for examiners to perform FFDEs with maximum attention to the relevant legal, ethical, and practice standards and with particular concern for statutory and case law applicable to the employing agency’s jurisdiction. Consequently, it is recommended that these evaluations be conducted only by a qualified mental health professional. At a minimal, it is recommended that examiners

5.1.1 be licensed psychologists or psychiatrists with education, training, and experience in the diagnostic evaluation of mental and emotional disorders;
5.1.2 possess training and experience in the evaluation of law enforcement personnel;
5.1.3 be familiar with the police psychology literature and the essential job functions of the employee being evaluated;
5.1.4 be familiar with relevant state and federal statutes and case law, as well as other legal requirements related to employment and personnel practices (e.g., disability, privacy, third-party liability, etc.);
5.1.5 satisfy any other minimum requirements imposed by local jurisdiction or law;
5.1.6 recognize their areas of competence based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience; and
5.1.7 seek appropriate consultation to address issues outside their areas of competence that may arise during the course of an FFDE.
5.2. When an FFDE is known to be in the context of litigation, arbitration, or another adjudicative process, the examiner should be prepared by training and experience to qualify as an expert in any related adjudicative proceeding.

6. Dual Relationships and Conflicts of Interest

6.1. Examiners should decline to accept an FFDE referral when personal, professional, legal, financial, or other competing interests or relationships could reasonably be expected to

6.1.1. impair their objectivity, competence, or effectiveness in performing their functions; or
6.1.2. expose the person or agency with whom the professional relationship exists to harm or exploitation (e.g., conducting an FFDE on an employee who had previously been a client in counseling or therapy, evaluating an employee with whom there has been a business or significant social relationship, etc.). Similarly, an FFDE examiner should be mindful of potential conflicts of interest related to recommendations or the provision of services following the evaluation (e.g., referring an examinee to oneself for subsequent treatment). If such conflicts are unavoidable or deemed to be of minimal impact, the examiner should nevertheless disclose the potential conflict to all affected patties.

7. Referral Process
7 .1. It is desirable that employers have FFDE policies and procedures that define such matters as circumstances that would give rise to an FFDE referral, mechanisms of referral and examiner selection, any applicable repmt restrictions, sharing results with the examinee, and other related matters.
7.2. It is recommended that the employer’s referral to the examiner include a description of the objective evidence giving rise to concerns about the employee’s fitness for duty and any particular questions that the employer needs the examiner to address. In most circumstances, the agency is encouraged to document the referral in writing. If the employer has not documented the reasons for the referral in writing, the examiner should send the employer a letter or memo restating the reasons for the referral.
7.3. In the course of conducting the FFDE, it is usually necessary for the examiner to receive background and collateral information regarding the employee’s past and recent performance, conduct, and functioning. The information might include, but is not limited to, performance evaluations, previous remediation efforts, commendations, testimonials, internal affairs investigations, formal citizen/public complaints, use-of-force incidents, reports related to officer involved shootings, civil claims, disciplinary actions, incident reports of any triggering events, medical records, prior psychological evaluations, and other supporting or relevant documentation related to the employee’s psychological fitness for duty. In some cases, an examiner may ask the examinee to provide medical/psychological treatment records and other data for the examiner to consider.
7.4. When some portion of the information requested by an examiner is unavailable or is withheld, the examiner must judge the extent to which the absence of such information may limit the reliability or validity of his or her findings and conclusions before deciding to proceed. If the examiner proceeds with the examination, it is recommended that the subsequent report include a discussion of any such limitations judged to exist.

8. Informed Consent and Authorization

8.1. An FFDE requires the informed consent of the examinee and the employer to participate in the examination. At a minimum, informed consent should include the following:

8.1.1. A description of the nature and scope of the evaluation

8.1.2. The limits of confidentiality, including any info1mation that may be disclosed to the employer without the exan1inee’s authorization

8.1.3. The party or parties who will receive the FFDE repo1t of findings, and whether the examinee will receive a report

8.1.4. The potential outcomes and probable uses of the examination, including
treatment recommendations, if applicable
8.1.5. Other provisions consistent with legal and ethical standards for mental
health evaluations conducted at the request of third parties
8.2. As part of the informed consent process, the examiner clarifies who the client is and communicates this to all involved parties at the outset of the evaluation. Regardless of who is identified as the client, the examiner owes an ethical duty to both parties to be fair, impartial, accurate, and objective and to honor the
parties’ respective legal rights and interests. Other legal duties also may be owed to the examinee or agency as a result of statutory or case law unique to an employer’s and/or examiner’s jurisdiction.
8.3. In addition to obtaining informed consent, it is recommended that the examiner obtain written authorization from the employee to release the examiner’s findings and opinions to the employer. If such authorization is denied, or if it is withdrawn once the examination commences, the examiner should be aware of any legal restrictions in the information that may be disclosed to the employer without valid authorization.

9. Evaluation Process
9.1. Depending on the referral question and the exan1iner’s clinical judgment, an FFDE typically relies on multiple methods and data sources in order to optimize the reliability and validity of findings. The range of methods and data sources frequently includes
9.1.1. a review of the relevant collateral information described in Guideline 7.3;
9.1.2. psychological testing using assessment instruments (e.g., personality,
psychopathology, cognitive, specialized) appropriate to the referral question( s );
9.1.3. a comprehensive, face-to-face clinical interview;
9.1.4. collateral interviews with relevant third parties if deemed necessary by the examiner; and
9.1.5. referral to, and/or consultation with, a specialist if deemed necessary by the examiner.
9.2. Prior to conducting collateral interviews of third parties, care should be taken to obtain informed consent from the employer, the examinee, or from the third party, as appropriate. This should include, at a minimum, explanation of the purpose of the interview, how the information will be used, and any limits to

10. Report and Recommendations
10.1. Customarily, the examiner will provide a written report to the client agency
that contains a description of the rationale for the FFDE, the methods employed, and whenever possible, a clearly articulated opinion that the examinee is presently fit or unfit for unrestricted duty. The content of the report should be guided by the referral question(s), the employing agency’s written policies and procedures, the applicable terms of any labor agreement, relevant law, the terms of informed consent, the employee’s authorization, and the pertinence of the content to the examinee’s psychological fitness.   Because FFDEs may become part of an adjudicative process, examiners strive to maintain detailed records that allow scrutiny of their work by other experts.
10.2. When an examinee is found unfit for unrestricted duty, it is advisable that the report contain, at a minimum, a description of the employee’s functional impairments or job relevant limitations unless prohibited by law, agency policy, labor agreement, the terms of the employee’s disclosure authorization, or other considerations.
10.3. It is recognized that some examiners may be asked to provide opinions regarding necessary work restrictions, accommodations, interventions, or causation. Nevertheless, whether or not a recommended restriction or accommodation is reasonable for the specific case and agency is a determination to be made by the employer, not the examiner.
10.4. The examiner’s findings and opinions are based on all data available at the time of the examination. If additional relevant information is obtained after completion of the FFDE or it is determined that the original evaluation was based on inaccurate information, the employer may request that the examiner reconsider his or her conclusions in light of the additional information.  Reconsideration or reevaluation also may be indicated in circumstances in which an employee, previously deemed unfit for duty, subsequently provides
information suggesting his or her fitness has been restored.
10.5. Some agencies may find differences of opinion between or among the examiner and other health care professionals. In such cases, it is advisable that the employer consider

10.5.1. any differences in the professionals’ areas of expertise and knowledge of the employee’s job and work environment;
10.5.2. the objective basis for each opinion; and
10.5.3. whether the opinion is contradicted by information known to or observed by the employer.
10.6. Agencies are encouraged to handle FFDE reports in conformance with legal standards governing an employer’s treatment of employee medical records.

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