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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

Second, the savvy promotional hopeful will identify precisely what he or she intends to know well in order to get ready for the testing process. Some example topics for study might include, for instance:

  • Agency policies, procedures and regulations;
  • Pertinent criminal and traffic ordinance and statutes;
  • Pertinent case law, particularly regarding arrest, search and seizure;
  • Disciplinary procedures, including any appeal process; Employment issues, including federal mandates regarding FSLA, FMLA, ADA, etc.; Response to tactical scenarios, including hostage-taking and hazmat incidents.

Third, the smart candidate will establish and stick to a routine for study. That will include both a quiet, out-of-the-way spot and a set time of the day for work on the "project" to take place. If he's really smart, he will stick to his promotional prepara­tion routine no matter what other temptations are vying for his attention.

The wise candidate will take advantage of any formal, promotional training opportunities offered by his agency or a police professional association. In addition, he will take advantage of group study sessions with other promotional candidates.

How Will You Be Tested?

Probably the only thing consistent about the ways law enforcement agencies test for promotion is the inconsistency of the testing process from one department to the next. Some departments rely solely on an eligibility list determined by candidates' scores on a written test. Others rely on assessment centers, oral boards or a combination of the two, while yet others combine some mixture of written and oral testing procedures.

Whatever the nature of the examination process, the agency is attempting to rank order its promotional candidates in their ability to solve factual, issue-based and hypothetical problems and scenarios.

For his part, the promotional candidate must learn in advance all he can about the nature of the tests he is facing in order to prepare intelligently. Carefully reviewing the promotional announcement information is an obvious means of gathering such data, as is talking with candidates who have been through the process recently. Some of the more frequently encountered "tests" include the following:

Written exams: The agency may rank its candidates solely on the results of the written test, or rely upon a specific cutoff score as a test-taker's "ticket" to the next stage of the promotional process.

During the exam, he will pace himself carefully and not spend too much time on a really tough question - he can return to it later.

Oral boards: These are generally made up of staff officers from the candidate's own agency, perhaps with community leaders or other "outsiders" thrown into the mix for diversity purposes. The candidate generally does one or more oral presentations and responds to questions and hypothetical scenarios posed by board members. The candidate is expected to think on his feet and make quick, correct decisions within the parameters of applicable policies, procedures and statutes. Technical and legal knowledge, plus communication skills will be tested.

In addition to building a solid background of job-related knowledge, the successful candidate will read up on the hot issues of the day, from department happenings to what is going on in the profession and society in general. He will practice his oral presentation skills and rehearse what it is he wants to say if he is asked to talk about himself and his readiness for promotion.

A thoughtful candidate will take the opportunity to talk about what he has done to prepare for promotion, tasks he has already carried out that a supervisor might be expected to do and just why he represents the best choice for promotion. Genuine enthusiasm and self-confidence that does not stray into arrogance or con­ceit will help his cause.

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