The Minneapolis Police Department has hired a St. Louis Park firm to screen job applicants after concerns arose that too many minority candidates were washing out during the psychological screening process.

After a brief discussion, a City Council subcommittee voted unanimously Thursday to award a $540,000 contract to Aspen Psychological Consulting LLC to take over psychological testing and evaluation of recruits. The decision must next be approved by the Ways and Means Committee before going to the full council.

Aspen beat out four other companies that responded to the department's request for proposal last fall, according to Destiny Xiong, a human resources official with the department. Though the St. Louis Park firm was not the lowest bidder, officials said they were impressed with its expertise.

"When assessing the providers, we took into consideration and examined each provider's experience working with law enforcement agencies, their evaluation approach, their expertise in clinical assessment," Xiong told members of the Public Safety Committee, "as well as their assessment of normal personality characteristics, skills and abilities; their experience working with diverse groups of individuals and how their scope of services aligns with the MPD's vision of building trust, accountability and delivering professional service."

The department manages background checks and physical tests, but it uses outside contractors to gauge whether recruits can withstand the mental and psychological rigors of the job.

Police officials have in recent years expressed frustration with the screening process, both publicly and privately, arguing that a system designed to flag recruits with racist or sexist tendencies is actually making it harder for the department to hire minorities.

Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 Twitter: @StribJany