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20 ways to NEVER get a police promotion

You need to start developing supervisory skills well before any testing process

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You will never get a promotion if you wait until the last minute just before the interview or assessment center dates are announced and quickly look online for some help.


So you think you’re really ready for that police promotional exam? Perhaps you should read the list below and ask yourself if any of the following behaviors have crept into your “preparation” for promotion.

I’ve compiled 20 excellent ways to never get promoted. If you’re doing any of them, you’re hurting your chances. The more of them you’re doing, the more work you have to do.

1. When you see a flyer on a promotional class, just pass it to your competition. You’ll be working for them soon enough!

2. Listen to everyone who tells you, “Don’t worry about the interview or assessment center. Just be yourself!”

3. Find someone who will tell you exactly what the last interview or scenarios were, since they always do same ones.

4. Wait until the first participants come out of the testing process and ask them what the scenarios were before your turn! After all, who will know?

5. Don’t read anything on how to do well in either a panel interview or assessment center, but read all you can about your policies and procedures.

6. Study for hours and hours for months ahead of your testing process by reading your departmental manuals and policies until your eyes bleed!

7. Don’t read your job description for the new rank. Just sell yourself as to how good you are at what you do now.

8. Don’t practice your core supervisory and management skills using daily scenarios, in-baskets, presentations, briefings, initiating projects and the like.

9. Rely strictly on your years of experience and winning personality.

10. If your department won’t pay for you to go to any training prior to your promotion – such as a supervisory/management course or a course like ours that focus on interviews, behavioral scenarios or assessment centers – do not pay for a course yourself.

11. Don’t attend any course that isn’t POST or “certified” by your state certification agency. They know what courses are best for you so stick to their menu of courses.

12. Don’t read any professional journals or magazines with articles on supervision or management in public safety.

13. Only attend conferences that involve firing weapons, looking at cool stuff and lectures about safety/survival and advanced technical skills.

14. Don’t take any supervisory or management skill-building courses. Stick with what’s worked for you so far.

15. Wait until the last minute just before the interview or assessment center dates are announced and quickly look online for some help!

16. Ignore your department’s annual reports, long-range plans, budgets and future needs – you won’t need to know about them anyway.

17. Do not memorize your department’s mission, values, goals and objectives. Those are just trick questions.

18. Don’t worry about the challenges the department will face in three or five years – you’ll most likely be in the same position you are now.

19. Wait until after you’re promoted to go to supervisory or mid-management training. Obviously, if your agency wanted you to know anything about supervision or management they would have trained you before you got promoted, not afterward!

20. Don’t initiate or get involved with “study groups” – they are a waste of time and the “smart guy” always knows all the answers.

Every Day is Free Practice

I hope you realize that was a tongue-in-cheek list. But in all seriousness, many of you are studying for your promotional exams to first-line supervision and doing some of that stuff.

Unfortunately, many candidates get tunnel vision on the written portion of their tests, and totally ignore the interview panel, role-play scenarios and the assessment center.

While I helped hundreds of candidates prepare for promotion, most are surprised to learn they are often totally unprepared for the behavioral aspects of the testing process – interviews and performance-based scenarios that are often used in assessment centers.

Since you think you’re ready for that promotion, you may tend to think that “It’s a piece of cake!” and just because you have been on so many years, you’re “ready.”

The truth is, you really need to start developing some of those supervisory skills well before any testing process. The big secret is that the people evaluating you for promotion are expecting you to walk into the interview or the scenarios already “walking the talk” as a good supervisor.

Consider the term “command presence” and remember that now would be a good time to start developing your “supervisory presence” they need to see and hear in you.

Those making promotion decisions are looking for that one candidate with experiences that match the KSAs – knowledge, skills and abilities – of a good supervisor. Start by reviewing those key “abilities” that are in the job description. Have you really demonstrated your readiness in those areas? If not, now’s a good time to get started!

Every day as a police officer is free practice!

This article, originally published 08/14/2014, has been updated.

Rick Michelson’s 30 years of experience in law enforcement started with the San Diego Police Department where he served as a patrol, SWAT and FTO sergeant. He also served as interim chief, lieutenant and sergeant with two university and college police departments. He has taught at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

As director of KSA Ltd., (Knowledge, Skills & Abilities), he provides leadership development training workshops, using assessment centers methods, for officers who are preparing for supervisory and management positions. He is also the author of “Assessment Centers for Public Safety.” He has a bachelor’s degree from Chapman University and a master’s degree in public administration from National University. He was also a Ph.D. candidate for the Union Institute and University.