…process for promotions
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 service list.
…two examples
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 believe it.
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 around.
…it's just the way it is
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
...the best opportunity
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.
…the rank structure
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.
…trash it
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
An Insider's Guide
to a Career in Law Enforcement
Chapter Six
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Chapter Six
Becoming a Police Officer
Becoming a Police Officer
An Insider's Guide to a Career
in Law Enforcement
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Copyright © 2021  Barry M. Baker  
There are Five
Indispensable Truths
for a Successful Police Career:
Recommended reading for those of
you thinking about becoming a Police
Accurate crime reporting is so
important on so many levels.  It all
begins with you and your preliminary
police report.
As a police officer, you'll be writing
something everyday of your police
career.  Everything you put to writing,
no matter how
inconsequential, will be important.