Detective Lieutenant Barry M. Baker (ret.) is a 32 year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department.
Police and politics is a common circumstance that exists in every police department, and you’ll just have to adjust to that reality. It would be nice if everything was based on fair competition, and the quality of your accomplishments determined your advancement.
You’ll be presented with a sunny picture of the opportunities available, and advancement will be predicated on experience and examinations. You’ll believe competitive examinations will determine your lateral or upward movement within the department. Think again, because you won’t get the briefing on police and politics.
Who You Know and Who Knows You
Office politics is associated with people who use means other than substance to seek advancement. Police and politics can be defined as who you know and who knows you, because how you’re known and by whom will determine advancement. Your qualifications will be of secondary importance.
Private enterprise has to consider profit as indispensable, but government is a quagmire of political corruption, nepotism, and favoritism. Some governments are just worse than others. Profit is not a consideration in government, and it can carry more dead weight than private enterprise.
Dead Weight Category of Police and Politics
The size of the police department will determine how many people reside in the dead weight category. The dead weight classification need not affect a person’s lateral or upward movement, and you’ll work with and for people who are in over their heads. These people can last for a long time in the police and politics culture. Whenever they begin causing harm, they’ll simply be moved to a position where they can do less harm.
You’ll have your hands full just learning the things you need to learn. As a new police officer, you’ll be in patrol which is the backbone of your police department. You should give yourself at least three years as a patrol officer, before you start thinking about moving onward and upward. Realistically, three years will only provide you limited experience. However, I was young once, and I realize how young people think. Like me, you could shun the intrigue of police and politics and remain a patrol officer for twenty years. I did it the hard way, but I had tons of experience once I dodged all the roadblocks.
People Who are In Today and Out Tomorrow
You may decide to get into the politics, and you’ll have to identify who to suck up to. People and circumstances can change rapidly. In the past, police culture was a stable environment, but It’s not like that today. You could invest a lot of effort cultivating relationships with people who are in today and out tomorrow.
The successful suck ups will keep their options open, and they’ll maintain flexibility. The suck up must not offend those who could be part of the tomorrow crowd, and the suck up must have the ability to seamlessly transfer allegiances on short notice.
The real trick to sucking up is maintaining your integrity. Sacrificing your integrity will make sucking up a lot easier, but that’s not the way you want to go. Those who suck up while maintaining their integrity are those who practice sucking up as a true art form, and they are best suited to flourish in the environment of police and politics.
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