While most departments list requirements for
promotion, they probably won't describe the
process for promotions. Before applying to a
department, you should contact the civil service
commission in that jurisdiction to learn the process
for the department's promotional examinations.
For example, a civil service examination should be
required for promotion to sergeant and lieutenant
before higher appointed positions are made by the
police chief. Normally, the higher ranks of a police
department are appointed positions drawn from the
highest civil service rank, and those appointed serve
at the pleasure of the police chief. Your main
concern should be your ability to competitively
aspire to the highest civil service rank.
|…a chink in the civil service armor
There is sometimes a chink in the civil service
armor. Civil service promotional examinations are
pretty straight forward to a point. The examination
usually consists of a written examination followed
by an oral interview. You need to know the weight
given to each portion of the examination.
Obviously, 20% written and 80% oral should send
up a red flag. Secondly, you need to know what, if
any, restrictions apply to the Police Chief when
selecting candidates from the final scored civil
Let's take two examples: The Police Chief has a list
of 80 candidates eligible for promotion to sergeant.
Candidates are listed 1 through 80 based on their
combined written and oral scores. Sounds like an
easy task for the Chief. Not so fast. This Chief has
no restrictions, and the Mayor's driver is number
80. Do you think the Chief will promote the Mayor's
driver over higher scoring candidates? You better
Second example: This Chief also has a list of 80
candidates, but this Chief is restricted on how he or
she can choose promotions from the list. This Chief
cannot skip more than four candidates in numerical
order without going back to promote one he or she
previously skipped. In other words, unless the
Chief promotes at least 75 other people from the
list, the Mayor's driver is out of luck this time
It doesn't sound fair, does it? Well, it's just the
way it is. Police Departments are government
entities, and politics are politics. Any system that
can be corrupted will be corrupted. Your task is to
identify a department that has as many safeguards
as possible in place. If you're a person who's
already well connected in local politics, or, if you're
an obsequious person who excels in the back
stabbing art of politics, a fair civil service process
could be a hindrance to you. However, if you're a
competitive individual, with an arcane belief in
merit, you want to choose a department that has a
relatively fair process for advancement.
Before you join any police department, you should
make yourself familiar with the department's
promotion process. If you end up making a career
out of police work, you want to give yourself the
best opportunity to advance in the ranks.
Most departments use military rank designations:
corporal; sergeant; lieutenant; captain; major;
lieutenant colonel; colonel. The chief's rank may be
designated by four stars, and his or her deputy
may be three stars. Rank designations among
departments vary. Some may have various
sergeant ranks, and the chief may wear a colonel's
insignia. However, the sergeant and lieutenant
ranks are relatively universal in the rank structure.
The sergeant is the first line of supervision, and
the lieutenant is the first line of management.
In your search for a department, you want to make
certain you join a department that gives you a fair
opportunity for promotion. At some point in every
department's rank structure, promotion becomes a
purely political process. You want a department
with a civil service promotion process which gets
you as far up the rank structure as possible. Most
departments should include the rank of lieutenant
under civil service. If the department you're looking
at doesn't, trash it, and go on to the next one.
Becoming a Police Officer
|Becoming A Police Officer
An Insider's Guide
to a Career in Law Enforcement
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