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Multiple Roles, Multiple Responsibilities and Dual Relationships in Law Enforcement and Police Psychology


By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

This page provides background and resources on the complexities, multiple relationships and multiple loyalties that police psychologists face in their line of work.

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Police psychology presents complex and often unavoidable multiple roles, multiple loyalties and multiple relationships situations in which the psychologists may be concurrently involved in providing clinical services as well as training, fitness-for-duty evaluations, pre-employment screenings, consultations with SWAT units, hostage negotiations, debriefings, consultations on suicide prevention and other roles. Needless to say, these diverse responsibilities and multiple loyalties (i.e., to the department, officers, public, courts, own safety, etc.), can easily present conflict of interests, conflict of loyalties, and ethical and legal dilemmas. Working outside the office walls, or what has been called Out of Office Experience, adds another dimension to psychologists who work with or as part of law enforcement and police departments.


Online Resources

Additional Resources

  • Aumiller, G. S., Corey, D., Allen, S., Brewster, J., Cutler, M., Gupton, H., & Honig, A. (2007). Defining the field of police psychology: core domains and proficiencies. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 22, 65–76.
  • Blau, T. H. (1994). Psychological Services for Law Enforcement. Wiley.
  • Colnerud, G. (1997). Ethical dilemmas of psychologists: a Swedish example in an international perspective. European Psychologist, 2 (2), 164–170.
  • Dennis L. Conroy (2011), Chapter 4 Ethical Issues for a Police Psychologist, in Anthony H. Normore, Brian D. Fitch (ed.) Leadership in Education, Corrections and Law Enforcement: A Commitment to Ethics, Equity and Excellence (Advances in Educational Administration, Volume 12. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.53 – 72. Abstract.
  • Dietz, P. E. and Reese, J. T. (1986), The perils of police psychology: 10 strategies for minimizing role conflicts when providing mental health services and consultation to law enforcement agencies. Behavioral Sciences & the Law 4/4, 385–400.
  • Fisher, M. A. (2009). Replacing “Who is the client?" with a different ethical question. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(1), 1–7.
  • Hines, A. H., Ader, D. N., Chang, A. S., & Rundell, J. R. (1998). Dual agency, dual relationships, boundary crossings, and associated boundary violations: a survey of military and civilian psychiatrists. Military Medicine, 163, 826–833.
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police. (2011a). Peer Support Guidelines. Arlington, VA. Retrieved from: (accessed July 27, 2016).
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police. (2011b). Guidelines for Consulting Police Psychologists. Arlington, VA. Retrieved from: (accessed July 27, 2016).
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police. (2013a). Fitness for Duty Evaluation Guidelines. Arlington, VA. Retrieved from: (accessed July 27, 2016).
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police. (2013b). Officer-Involved Shooting Guidelines. Arlington, VA. Retrieved from: (accessed July 27, 2016).
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police. (2014). Preemployment Psychological Evaluation Guidelines. Arlington, VA. Retrieved from: (accessed July 27, 2016).
  • Jeffrey, T. B., Rankin, R. J., & Jeffrey, L. K. (1992). In service of two masters: the ethical-legal dilemma faced by military psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 23, 91–95.
  • Johnson, W. B. (2008). Top ethical challenges for military clinical psychologists. Military Psychology, 20, 49–62.
  • Johnson, W. B. (2015). Military settings. In J. Norcross, G. R. VandenBos, & D. K. Freedheim (Eds.) APA Handbook of Clinical Psychology: Vol. 1 (pp. 495–507). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Johnson, W. B., Ralph, J., & Johnson, S. J. (2005). Managing multiple roles in embedded environments: the case of aircraft carrier psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36, 73–81.
  • Johnson, W. B., Bacho, R., Heim, M., & Ralph, J. (2006). Multiple-role dilemmas for military mental health care providers. Military Medicine, 171, 311–315.
  • Kennedy, C. H., & Johnson, W. B. (2009). Mixed agency in military psychology: applying the American Psychological Association ethics code. Psychological Services, 6, 22–31.
  • Kitchener, K. S. (2000). Foundations of Ethical Practice, Research, and Teaching in Psychology. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • McCutchen, J. L., (In Press). Multiple Relationships in Police Psychology: Common, Unavoidable, and Navigable Occurrences. In Zur, O. (Ed.) Multiple Relationships in Psychotherapy and Counseling: Unavoidable, Common and Mandatory Dual Relations in Therapy. New York: Routledge.
  • McCutcheon, J. L. (2011). Ethical issues in police psychology: Challenges and decision-making models to resolve ethical dilemmas. In J. Kitaeff (Ed.), Handbook of Police Psychology (pp. 89-108). New York: Routledge.
  • McCutcheon, J. (2002). Ethical Issues in Law Enforcement Psychology: Selected Ethical Challenges and Decision-Making Models to Resolve Ethical Dilemmas. Paper presented at the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology Conference.
  • Monahan, J. (1980). Who Is the Client? The Ethics of Psychological Intervention in the Criminal Justice System. Abstract.
  • Orme, D. R., & Doerman, A. L. (2001). Ethical dilemmas and U.S. Air Force clinical psychologists: a survey. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 32, 305–311.
  • Pettifor, J. L. & Sawchuk, T. R. (2006). Psychologists’ perceptions of ethically troubling incidents across international borders. International Journal of Psychology, 41(3), 216–225.
  • Slack, C. M., & Wassenaar, D. R. (1999). Ethical dilemmas of South African clinical psychologists: international comparisons. European Psychologist, 4(3), 179–186.
  • Staal, M. A., & King, R. E. (2000). Managing a multiple relationship environment: the ethics of military psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 31, 698–705.
  • Zellig, M (1998). Ethical dilemmas in police psychology. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice,19/3, 336-338.
  • Zur, O., & Gonzalez, S. (2002). Multiple relationships in military psychology. In A. A. Lazarus & O. Zur (Eds.), Dual Relationships and Psychotherapy (pp. 315–328). New York: Springer.

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