Recently slain forensic psychiatrist Steven Pitts was the featured speaker during a training the Arizona Department of Corrections required me to attend approximately 15 years ago. This training was required in order to be certified to work before the Arizona Supreme Court. At the time I did not realize all of the many high profile cases he had been involved in.
I hung out with Steven and other trainers and attendees for two days. What I remember most is the pride he took in telling us that not only would we not have to abide by the American Psychological Association Code of Ethics and the training almost all of psychologists complete but we were required by Arizona Statute to give that information. Namely, we were forced by law to go beyond the traditional role of providing expertise as an expert witness to the court, and that any psychologist practicing in Arizona was required to give a recommendation for or against commitment.
Dr. Steven Pitt and others may think they did us (psychologists) a favor but they did not. They put us in an ethical bind. Rather than “free us” to go beyond the codes of ethics for psychologists and for the practice of forensic psychology, by law the State of Arizona Supreme Court was requiring us to cross lines breaking ethics (and exposing ourselves to law suit and complaints against our licenses) and exceed our roles as expert witnesses to becoming judges.
We, as psychologists, always provided expertise and testimony but we never usurped the authority of the judge and the court by making decisions for the court but this is what they demanded. So, the State of Arizona made it impossible once again to practice psychology in Arizona ethically!
One could no longer abide by the Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychology. These Guidelines are informed by APA’s “Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.”
While Dr. Pitt was proud of his contribution to this practice of psychology before the Supreme Court of Arizona, it made it difficult for me to abide the APA’s guidelines and ethics. As a result I decided I would not practice forensic psychology in Arizona. That was the only way I could avoid the ethical dilemma and ethical binds such requirements caused.
Arizona is not noted for “brain power” and Arizona does not respect or value higher degrees. Arizona does not have the brightest of legislators. As a result Arizona has some very stupid laws. We have a State government that pretends to respect the individual’s rights while it attempts to regulate things that should not be regulated.
Arizona has a lot of people with lesser degrees practicing beyond their abilities and their training. Arizona has people working with master’s and bachelor’s degrees doing work which in other states is reserved for doctoral graduates. This is part of why life in Arizona is difficult–because we expect people with inferior training to practice at levels much higher than other states allow.
Dr. Pitt did not deserve to be murdered. However, the practice of psychology in Arizona has been perverted by his influence. Steven Pitt, OD was a psychiatrist. As such, he was not bound by the same standards and should not have meddled in the professional practice of psychology in Arizona.