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Capitol Police end contract with company that rejected atypical percentage of recruits

Company’s work in its psychological evaluations of recruits in question

Capitol Police recruits stand in line in between excercises on the East Plaza of the Capitol in May.
Capitol Police recruits stand in line in between excercises on the East Plaza of the Capitol in May. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Capitol Police has been rejecting officer applicants at a rate three times the national average, during a time when significant staffing shortages have strained the department that protects lawmakers, the Capitol building and congressional offices.

Nearly half of recruits were turned away after pre-employment psychological evaluations were conducted by a screening company, which an internal watchdog had flagged almost four years ago for having an abnormally high failure rate, according to a series of letters obtained by CQ Roll Call.

That 2019 inspector general’s report also questioned the qualifications of those conducting screenings, and found the company was increasing fees and producing poor quality work, among other issues, the letters state.

But it wasn’t until last month that Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger ended the company’s contract. The change was spurred by a lawmaker who voiced concerns to the inspector general that improper management of the contract contributed to limiting public access to the Capitol and “significantly hindered the Department’s ability to protect Congress.”

The department has forced officers to work overtime, held them over for extended shifts, canceled days off and used contract security workers to alleviate the shortage. The department has also paid bonuses to entice officers to stay and upped the mandatory retirement age from 57 to 60.

The department’s response to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol opened the historically opaque agency to more public scrutiny and congressional oversight, which has revealed widespread issues with department management and operations.

The prior concerns about the screening firm, Global Consortium LLC, were raised again this year in letters from Rep. Joseph D. Morelle of New York, the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, and in a new review from the department’s inspector general, Ron Russo, who assumed that position in January.

That review, concluded in May, found the screening company had failed 48 percent of Capitol Police applicants on pre-employment psychological evaluations, compared to the national average at 16 percent.

Experts say that rate is an outlier in the field. David Corey, founding president of the American Board of Police and Public Safety Psychology, conducts evaluations of police and other public safety candidates for more than 200 agencies in eight states.

“I have never had a fail rate that high, and I know of no one else who has either,” Corey said.

Millions billed

Global Consortium billed the department $9.4 million since 2015. More than half of that, $5 million, has been through a contract for pre-employment psychological screenings and other evaluations. Most of the rest is for team-building, strategic planning and online management training.

In April, Morelle asked Russo for an immediate review of the screening contract based on several “worrisome” findings from a 2019 inspector general report, “Pre-Employment Psychological Evaluation Contract Issues.”

In addition to the high failure rate, Morelle asked about the contractor’s qualifications, the way the department awarded the screening contract, and whether a cost per evaluation that had more than doubled “with no additional benefit to the Department” was in line with what other agencies pay.

Morelle wrote he was concerned that “improper management” of the contract had made worse “severe” staffing shortages that affected the department’s ability to protect Congress.

“The staffing shortages have also forced officers to carry additional mission load and lessened their work-life balance, causing a morale crisis that, in turn, further worsens the staffing shortage,” Morelle wrote.

What Russo would report back was described by Morelle as “wide ranging and profoundly troubling.” Manger agreed and subsequently terminated the company’s contract.

And the chief, who has been in that role since 2021, told CQ Roll Call in a statement that he has requested that Russo launch an independent investigation.

Unusual failure rate

The watchdog found that the department stuck with the Global Consortium contract for pre-employment psychological evaluations despite the 2019 findings, and the Capitol Police failed 1,574 of 3,263 applicants during the fiscal years reviewed.

Had the failure rate been aligned with the national average, the Capitol Police “may have had an additional 1,052 applicants continue through the recruiting process,” Russo wrote to Morelle.

The force has nearly 2,000 sworn officers and is authorized to hire 2,126, according to a department spokesperson.

The new inspector general review does not directly pin the effect of the pre-employment rejections on the staffing shortages. Those applicants, even if they passed the psychological evaluations, may have failed at subsequent steps in the hiring process.

It also is unclear how many of them would have been able to fit into training classes at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers. FLETC suspended training operations in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which Manger has told lawmakers “essentially brought our sworn hiring to a halt for nearly a year.”

Manger, in his statement to CQ Roll Call, said the department’s new leadership team is hiring around 280 officers per year “while the Department explores new options to ensure we can continue to hire the highest quality officers to protect the Members of Congress with a process that is consistent with industry standards.”

“Right now, because of our aggressive recruiting campaigns, we have more people at our academy than we can handle — to the point that we are working to hire approximately 17 additional instructors this year to keep up with the workload,” Manger said.

But staffing issues remain in parts of the department, including the Dignitary Protection Division, a unit in which agents protect members of congressional leadership.

Lew Schlosser, a licensed psychologist and expert in pre-employment evaluations of police officers who has conducted more than 15,000 psychological evaluations for law enforcement, called the high percent failure rate “atypical.”

“The assumption I would make is that the evaluator doesn’t know what they’re doing,” Schlosser said.

Qualifications

The review found the only key employee identified in the department’s original contract for pre-employment screening is Adrienne Anderson, executive director of Global Consortium, an Alexandria, Va.-based firm.

Anderson has a Ph.D. in human and organizational systems, is a licensed resident in marriage and family therapy in Virginia, and until February 2023, was a licensed nurse’s aide in Virginia, according to the inspector general review.

State records show Anderson is not licensed as a psychologist in Virginia. International Association of Chiefs of Police guidelines for pre-employment psychological evaluations state that “agency administrators should use a licensed, doctoral-level psychologist to conduct preemployment evaluations,” among other guidelines.

Morelle highlighted that as one of the “shocking findings” from the contract review and called Anderson “unqualified” in correspondence with Manger.

The review looked at a sample of 40 psychological reports and found that Anderson had signed as a reviewer for 39 of the 40 reports. On one of those 39, Anderson was the sole signature. Only one of 15 other employees who signed as a reviewer was a licensed clinical psychologist, and that person signed only two of the 40 reports that were reviewed.

That licensed clinical psychologist was involved with the Global Consortium for around six months and conducted fitness for duty evaluations, but did not do any pre-employment psychological evaluations, the inspector general found.

An email and a LinkedIn message seeking comment from Anderson went unanswered. A phone message left with her firm was not returned.

Schlosser said not having a licensed psychologist conduct such screenings can result in poor hiring decisions. “You’re basically exposing your agency to unnecessary liability,” Schlosser said.

‘Highway robbery’

The recent review also found Capitol Police had continued to overpay for screenings even after the 2019 watchdog report, and at one point was being overcharged by at least $870 per evaluation.

Russo found the standard industry rate for pre-employment psychological evaluations conducted by a licensed clinical psychologist on officer candidates falls between $400 and $600, citing figures from the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Several police departments in the area — including D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department — pay about that industry rate, Russo found.

Though the Global Consortium contract started at $500 per evaluation in 2017, the prices rose quickly and often. Over the course of 2018, the price jumped to $1,100 for a single screening.

By 2019, the year the inspector general flagged issues in the contract, Global Consortium was charging $1,155 per evaluation. The prices peaked in 2020, when evaluations were being charged at $1,470 a piece. By 2021, the prices dipped to $1,273 per screening.

“Charging over $1,000 is just ridiculous,” Schlosser said. “This is highway robbery. It’s just exorbitant.”

How it started

The review also identified several issues with how the Capitol Police first awarded the screening contract to Global Consortium, including that the firm played a role in drafting the description of what the contract would require.

A department official had reached out to Global Consortium, which was contracted to provide executive coaching at the time, to assist in revising the department’s pre-employment psychological screening criteria and standards “because they believed the contractor had a background in psychology.”

After that, a department selection panel also did not follow instructions for evaluating proposals, did not independently review all proposals, and failed to note that Global Consortium’s proposal didn’t include any information that showed key employees or proposed staff “had any experience conducting pre-employment evaluations.”

The Office of Acquisition Management produced an award summary memo that did not flag these issues, the internal review found.

Russo told Morelle that the department previously had responded to that section of the 2019 report. The general counsel’s office reviewed the contract’s appropriateness and wrote a memo addressing internal controls that the Office of Acquisition Management subsequently instituted.

How it ended

Russo sent his findings to Morelle on May 19, and days later the lawmaker wrote Manger to request the chief terminate the contract with Global Consortium and to “engage a qualified LCP [Licensed Clinical Psychologist] to conduct pre-employment psychological evaluations.”

Manger wrote back the next day, saying he had ended the department’s relationship with Global Consortium “after reviewing” Russo’s findings on May 19 — the same day Morelle received the response from Russo.

Manger added that the department is in the process of evaluating proposals for a new contract, which is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

He said he is looking into whether the department can use a partner agency’s contractor to “minimize any slowdown in our staffing until the procurement process is complete.”

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