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Are You Ready for a Promotion?

You're ready for a new challenge. You are ready, at least in your own mind, for promotion. But are you really? Being tired of one job does not necessarily translate into readiness for the next link in the chain of command.

July 01, 1998  |  by Gerald W. Garner

You've thought about it. Really thought about it. You've experienced more than your share of the best cop blues.  You've packed off a gazillion puking drunks, officiated at countless barroom brawls, gone through a truckload of ticket books and restored relative tranquility to more scenes of domestic mayhem then you'd care to number.  You're ready for a new challenge.  You are ready, at least in your own mind, for promotion.

But are you really?  Being tired of one job does not necessarily translate into readiness for the next link in the chain of command.  These are other good options, like seeking a special assignment for instance.  If you still remain dead-set on promotion, hopefully it is for all of the right reasons.

You truly believe you have what it takes to be a police leader and are willing to do the extra work and accept the extra responsibilities that the position brings with it.  You are ready and ble to handle the consideration preparations required to "go for the gold". And equally capable of maintaining that energy level for as long as you hold the position of law enforcement supervisor.  That's what it's really all about.

What Will Your New Job Be?

For most peace officers, the first rung on the leadership ladder will be that of first-line supervisor, or sergeant.  Although the new leader's duties will vary at least somewhat from one jurisdiction to the next, in most agencies the man or women sporting a new set of stripes can expect to face some of the following, basic tasks: an honest effort to fix a problem, con­front a wrong.

Impartiality: As noted, fairness requires a supervisor to treat everyone the same when employee vs. organization, employee vs. employee. or employee vs. citizen-customer confrontations arise, as they most certainly will.

Judgment and deci.sion making: No supervisor has to make the "right" decision every time. No one does. But he does have to be willing to make the calls even the very hard ones - in a timely and effective manner. That may mean that, on occasion, he will have to gather the facts, assess them, apply his own good judgment and common sense and reach a decision without much time to consider the issue or seek the advice of others. The effective supervisor seeks input and attempts to build consensus where he can, but is willing and able to make the tough calls alone when the situation dictates.

The street-level, tactical decisions he will be called upon to make may be dicey ones, it's true. But the "personnel issues" he must deal with and render de­cisions on in personnel matters can be even tougher.

Ability to see the "Big Picture:" In order to be truly effective in his new position, the first-line supervisor cannot afford to limit his perspective to his own small part of the organization, whether that part is a patrol team or a specialized unit. A good supervisor does not hoard resources or in­formation. He shares what he controls with the larger organization and expects the same from his fellow supervisors. He is able to look well beyond his current position or assignment and see the department as it is: a group of interdependent parts that must mesh smoothly and support one another if the organization is to be an effective one.

How Will You Get Ready?

Assuming that he has conducted an honest self-assessment and determined that moving up in the organization with its attendant plusses and minuses is really what he wants to do, the candidate for advancement must next develop a plan for reaching the ultimate goal: actually obtain­ing the desired promotion. Some specific objectives, set now and achieved along the way to promotion, should serve well.

First of all, it will prove helpful to talk with recent, successful candidates for promotion and find out what they did to do well in the process. What did they have to learn? What knowledge, skills and abilities did the process appear to test the most? What would their advice be for the serious promotional candidate? And so on.

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