Sigma Survey for Police Officers

Predicts job performance, assesses cognition/judgment, legal comprehension, report writing.


Douglas N. Jackson, Ph.D. © 2001

Police officers are often faced with difficult situations that require quick, logical decision-making. The Sigma Survey for Police Officers (SSPO) is an objective, reliable, and highly valid assessment for screening job applicants for the position of police officer. The SSPO uses job-relevant questions to identify individuals with the cognitive skills necessary to use sound judgment in police situations, show good comprehension of legal documents, and to write credible incident reports.

• An aid to the screening and selection of police officer candidates


Strong Predictor of Job Performance
The ability to write good incident reports is important in police work because their accuracy and credibility are often crucial as court evidence in the administration of justice. Research has found that the SSPO distinguishes between job candidates who can and cannot prepare satisfactory incident reports. The SSPO also measures general cognitive ability, which has been found to be one of the best predictors of job performance for virtually all jobs. More effective than resumes, education, references, or interviews.

Superior Development
Questions were carefully selected to be job relevant, both because such items are more acceptable to candidates and employers, and because the use of job-relevant content in applicant screening tests is very much more likely to be resistant to legal challenge.

SSPO Sections
Incident Report Writing: Contains three subsections that assess the candidate’s spelling, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation skills.

Police Problem Solving: Consists of descriptions of events requiring decisions by a police officer, such as incidents involving patrolling the city, approaching a group of disorderly individuals, taking descriptions of a suspect from witnesses, answering questions regarding issues of theft, robbery, and breaking and entering, and others. Every situation is followed by a series of questions each requiring a correct answer from the job applicant.

Norms are based on a sample of 1413 job applicants applying for the position of police officer in various North American police forces.

The SSPO has shown good internal consistency reliability for samples of officer incumbents (total scale, .96), officer job applicants (total scale .89), and police job candidates (total scale, .82).

In a validity study SSPO scores were found to correlate .65 with the quality of incident reports using incumbent officers in a work sample environment. In that study, individuals showed increasingly higher percentages of satisfactory reports as SSPO scores increased from low to high (see figure below). The SSPO shows good convergent validity; validity coefficients for the three components of cognitive ability measured by the SSPO range from .43 to .53.

Fax-in Scoring
After an applicant completes the SSPO, the answer sheet is faxed to a toll-free number. The fax-in scoring system generates the report and the SSPO report is returned in minutes. The materials required for fax-in scoring are SSPO test manual, question booklet and answer sheet.

Additional information

Appropriate For


Administration Time


Scoring Options



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