Forest Alumnus Recognized By New ABPP Certification

While the role of police psychologists has been around for decades, it wasn't until 2011 that the first group of psychologists became certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology in the specialization of Police and Public Safety Psychology.

Among the first in the country to obtain this honor was 1993 Forest graduate Dr. Ray Turner, who now works as the chief psychologist for the Memphis, TN Police Department.

"It’s important to me because we can begin to differentiate people who are specialists in the practice of this particular field from people who tend to be general practitioners,” said Dr. Turner.

ABPP first recognized the need for the specialty in December of 2010 when it unanimously voted to advance affiliation of the program. After operating for nearly a year in provisional status, the first group of Board Certified Police and Public Safety Psychologists emerged in the early fall of 2011.

Dr. Turner says while ABPP was quick to realize the specialty, historically it's been a long road obtaining any recognition.

"I think the specialty has kind of evolved over the last 100 years to the point that most people practicing police psychology were really forensic psychologists, people who were board certified in forensics or practicing police psychology in a lot of settings,” said Dr. Turner.

ABPP's new board certification for police and public safety psychology operates under the competencies of assessment, intervention, operations, and consultation.

"People in police and public safety are a different population because of the insular nature of what they do.  It tends to require a certain level of understanding of what the requirements to be in these fields involve," said Dr. Turner.

Much of what Dr. Turner does is assessment of new officer candidates and consultation with current employees.  He says the certification highlights his ability to make informed decisions.

"The selection and assessment of individuals for these fields requires certain knowledge to so effectively, and to protect the public interest while putting the best people in these positions," said Dr. Turner. "You are dealing with people who have a very stressful job, and who have a lot of responsibility.”

Among other things, Dr. Turner says board certification in police and public safety psychology also opens up networking opportunities with other departments at the local, state, and national level.  He says police departments, especially smaller ones, are always in need of psychological services, which often are provided by general clinical psychologists.

"Every small police department obviously doesn’t hire a psychologist to work with it.  They typically work with psychologists in the community," said Dr. Turner.

That is how he got his start, which eventually led to his current position with the Memphis Police Department.

After graduating from Forest in 1993, Dr. Turner worked at a prison in Arkansas for several years.  While there he was asked numerous times to do assessments for smaller police departments.  As word spread, he moved up the ladder and across state lines where he became the clinical director of a community mental health center in Memphis.  A few years later while working with a crisis response team, the job with the police department presented itself.

Dr. Turner says he is still fond of the education he received at Forest, and the opportunities it opened for him.

"I was well trained there.  The education I got was significant and prepared me well to work as a psychologist," said Dr. Turner.