How Do I Prepare For The Position?

How Do I Prepare for the Position? 

Technically, you have been preparing for this position since you were first sworn in as Police Officer. Some will disagree with me but just take a minute to think about it. After you pinned on your badge, you were a sponge and listened to everything that was happening around and especially to your training officer. You were working hard to make probation. Then some of you worked hard at being the best officer you could be in patrol hoping to make it to a specialty assignment. You get the idea. We are constantly learning and working hard to improve. Remember how each year your Supervisor gave an annual evaluation or performance report and the results of that evaluation were, hopefully, discussed with you? If they were not discussed, set up a meeting with your Supervisor and have them explain what process they used to evaluate you and if you have questions or disagree with their evaluation, now is the time to discuss it with them. Normally, you are told of your strengths and weaknesses and areas in which you can improve. Your evaluation should be used as a training tool and with that in mind I know that you have taken the advice from your Supervisors and developed your career accordingly. That is why you’re now ready to proceed in moving up the ranks of your Department. 

We have discussed preparing for this promotional process by education, research, reading, and discussing evaluations with your Supervisors. So what can you possibly do next to improve yourself? Since we have just started, you must realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg, you have a lot to accomplish before you are ready for your promotional exam. There are two areas of concern that I feel are extremely important, and necessary for achieving a successful conclusion to this process. One is getting physically fit; the other is becoming mentally tough. 

I will be delving into these categories in my next blog. Any questions  let me know in “Ask the Chief.”


Let's Talk About Preparation

The purpose of preparation is to raise the bar so others must participate at your level!


First and foremost, don’t be shy about your intentions.  Let your Supervisors know that you are planning to promote and that you are willing to handle all assignments, especially those with responsibility.   Make your intentions known and take advantage of your promotional opportunity by approaching the process with a positive, upbeat attitude! I remember an Officer who at every possible opportunity told me that he was going to be my next Sergeant. He also saw my wife at a car wash and told her the same thing, and you know what?—He was!!! 


The promotional process should be one of the best experiences of your career.  You are about to embark on an outstanding journey that will change your life forever.


Many people have asked me over the years what they need to do to prepare for their promotions. My response has always been: education-education-education.  Bachelor Degrees are as common as an A.A. Degree. More Officers are obtaining their Masters Degree, so it is incumbent for you to remain competitive in the promotional process, and the more education you have the more competitive you will remain.


Will you automatically get the position because you have completed your education?  No, but it will demonstrate to the raters and your Chief that you have initiative, and you strive to constantly improve yourself.  Besides, it helps to move that gray matter around in your brain.


Now I know that going to school will take a lot of time away from your family and areas of interest but you must realize (and again I ask that you remain positive in this endeavor) that in order to remain competitive, and obtain the position that you desire, sacrifices must be made.


As Chief, I did not appreciate excuses from my personnel for not continuing their education, and there were a number of them.  For example: Officers would say they didn’t have enough time off to enjoy themselves so they didn’t want to take what time they did have and go to school. Other statements consisted of:  “I just had a child and I want to spend time with him”; “ the cost of schooling is too high, and the Department doesn’t reimburse my tuition”; “shift work makes it impossible”; “my spouse doesn’t see me as it is, and if I go to school it will cause problems at home”; “education is not that important- if they don’t know who I am and what my abilities are by now, then education is not going to help me obtain my goal.”


I am not a complete Ogre and I realize that there are certain times when returning to school are tough, especially when you are assigned undercover details or other specialty assignments that have irregular hours.  BUT going to school doesn’t mean that you have to attend everyday and take a full course load.  If you can take one class a semester or every other semester, you are still demonstrating initiative in achieving your goals.


While being a husband with a beautiful and supporting wife, and a father with two very young children, and while working in Patrol, and then in Detectives it took me ten years to complete two years of college to obtain my Bachelor of Science in Police Science. So I know and understand the difficulties but I kept working to complete this phase of my education, and it eventually paid off.


If you want to make excuses, and you think that education is a waste of time, then it doesn’t appear that your future career (or the upcoming promotion) is very important to you. So if you want to show initiative and go for that promotion, find a solution that will work in your situation and move forward in attaining your goal. 


Along with education, there are other areas you can research to help prepare yourself for the Assessment Center and/or your Oral Board presentation.  Take time to expand your horizons and read as much as possible on various subjects.  There are many good books depicting the leadership roles in Law Enforcement.  Read two or three, as they are good reviews, but also go outside the box and read other books on leadership that have been written for the private sector.  For example, Tony Robbins, Tom Peters, Warren Bennis, Lee Iacocca, and former New York Mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani have written excellent books on leadership and management.  I would also recommend books written by coaches and military personnel, such as basketball coach and player Pat Riley, the biography of Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi, or Army Generals such as Colin Powell and “Stormin” Norman Schwarzkoph – All are people who had very different personalities and styles and you either loved them or hated them but above all, you respected them. They were not afraid to take risks, and they motivated their personnel; they learned by their mistakes, and they thought outside the box.  Status quo was not good enough for them.  They were innovators who were always looking for ways to improve themselves and others.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has produced a brochure entitled “Police Leadership Development Reading List,” which provides a number of leadership books that are worth investigating.  You can obtain this brochure by contacting the,

  • ·      U.S. Department of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice, or by writing to:

International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 N. Washington Street, Alexandria Va. 22314 USA.


You can always write to me at and I will send you a reading list that will benefit your goals.

Leadership is leadership.  It doesn’t matter whether you are in Law Enforcement or the private sector, you are dealing with people who either work for you or who are your customers.  Yes, your citizens are your customers and your job is to provide leadership for your personnel, which in turn will help to provide the best possible customer service.


Besides reading books, there are other ways for you to improve, such as listening to various self-improvement tapes.  There are time management and motivational tapes on cassettes or CDs.  There are numerous authors, like Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager;  Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Wess Roberts, Ph.D. Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun and the world’s greatest salesman Zig Zigler, to name a few.


Don’t feel you have to follow everything these authors say, because you don’t.  Some ideas may not be your style, but they will give you something to think about.  There may be a few areas that you don’t like about yourself and should change.  Self-evaluation is a good tool and should be an ongoing process. I can guarantee you that the person I was as Chief of Police was not the same person who started out as a rookie cop 37 years prior.  We mature, create different career goals, and visualize a different future for ourselves, personally and professionally. This ongoing self-evaluation process is really great because if you don’t change, you will become stagnant, which, in turn, will cause boredom -- and eventually you will burn out. 


Why would I want to be a supervisor?

I believe one of the best reasons for becoming a supervisor is that you will be a manager in your agency and be a vital player in the development of your subordinates and the department; this should be a prime motivational factor for you. Naturally, there is the monetary incentive that comes with every promotion, which is very important when planning for your future.

As a supervisor, you demonstrate your leadership abilities.  How great is that?  Remember when you used to sit around with your fellow officers and tell them how you could handle a situation so much better than your current supervisor?  This is nothing new; we all did it. This kind of banter is a good thing to participate in as long as you maintain proper respect and continue to follow the orders of your supervisor. This exchange of ideas actually helps to develop your own leadership abilities because you will start to think like a supervisor, which is very important. In fact, if you think about it, it is similar to voting in an election.  There is a saying that “if you didn’t vote in the election, don’t complain about who’s in office.”  It’s the same about becoming a supervisor.  If you feel you would be a good Supervisor and could assist in improving your department and the service that is provided to your citizens, then being promoted is your “vote” or opportunity to provide input on changes you feel are necessary. Or if your department is running smoothly, then you can maintain the status quo.

As a supervisor you will be able to develop information on the best ways to improve procedures and policies that are for the good of the department.  You see, as a supervisor your voice can be heard and you can influence not only your superiors, but also your troops.

Becoming a supervisor is a great thing, something you’ve worked for during your entire career.  It is more than just giving orders or assigning officers to a beat every day. 

  • You are in charge of every situation that occurs out in the field.
  • You will review all of the actions of your officers and determine what training may be useful in their development.
  • You can create scenarios or situations for training purposes.
  • You will face new challenges such as becoming a mentor, a confidant, a cheerleader, a disciplinarian, and you will be able to help other personnel develop their breadth of knowledge in their chosen profession. With your assistance, some day they can advance in their career.
  • You will become a role model to many.  Some officers may not tell you to your face, but you can be sure that if you have been doing your job correctly, you will make an impact.  Others will tell you how much you have meant to their career and how they have patterned their own career after yours.
  • You will be proud that you, as a supervisor, were able to make such a difference. This is one of the highest tributes that anyone can bestow on you. Believe me; your world will change because of it!

As a police chief, I considered all of my supervisors as management, and it didn’t matter if they were first-line supervisor sergeants or captains.  Now I want you to understand I am not speaking for every police chief because we all have our own way of handling various supervisory positions, but here is my thinking on the situation.  Let’s say you are a sergeant, working a graveyard shift. There’s no lieutenant on duty and the police chief is home sleeping, knowing that his City is being protected by the finest supervisor he has on his shift that night--you.  It doesn’t matter that you are the only supervisor on duty that night-- you are the best one he has out there.  Think about it.  Who is in charge?  YOU.  If a major situation develops, who will handle it?  YOU.  If there are notifications to be made, who is going to make the decision to make those notifications?  YOU.  So, to my way of thinking, it stands to reason that you are the supervisor in charge, that is the chief of police, and that means you are management not just for this one night but throughout your supervisory career.  (Remember, we are talking about leadership positions not M.O.U. (Memorandum of Understanding issues or personnel job descriptions). That is what makes the position of supervisor so great because you are the main person in charge, and you can develop others who in turn will help develop the future of your department.

Now is the time to make that all important decision because, after all, it is your future we are talking about.


Ask the Chief: How do you stay positive in this profession?

Q. “How do you stay positive in this profession?”



A.We graduate from the academy and enter the realm of Law Enforcement. All of a sudden we face an enormous amount of negativity. For instance: we hear all of the complaining from our peers on just about every subject possible: we read and hear negative media reports often times from reporters that have very few facts correct in their stories: we feel extremely depressed when we don’ t make the promotion we have anticipated: and we often deal with hostile citizens who really don’ t want us around. So why do we still stay in this profession and remain positive? Because we love it and not everyone can do it. We are a special breed! Think about it. How many candidates started in your academy class and how many graduated and how many of those that did graduate are still in the profession today?

Every career you enter will not be perfect but that doesn’ t mean that it is not a great career for you. You must look past the negatives and find the positives and that is exactly what we must do in Law Enforcement.

If you think about it our job is mostly dealing with the negatives in peoples’ lives. The burglaries, robberies, homicides, suicides, etc all have a negative impact on the victims lives as well as ours. And if you don’ t look on the positive side of these calls you will also fall into a very negative depression.

Now looking on the positive side is sometimes easier said than done. Remember this job has no conscience and will chew you up and spit you out and not think twice about it! So now we must work on becoming positive in our thoughts and actions. Anyone can sit around and complain and we all know that misery loves company but it takes a special individual to stand up and become a positive influence.

Now don’ t get me wrong, I am not saying that I was never a negative influence on certain things hell, I have been in Law Enforcement 37 years but I learned that when I changed to a positive outlook, situations on the job looked a lot better.

I always state “ stay positive,” both in your professional and you personal life. Don’ t look at just the fact that a burglary is negative incident, turn it into a positive interaction with the victim. Demonstrate that you are there to assist them and hopefully apprehend the suspect and if at all possible return some if not all of the missing property. This is not necessarily a “ pipe dream,” you are there to make them feel safer in your community, that is your job. Feel good that they called you for help. Out of all the people in your community, you are there to assist. What a great feeling, not everyone can say that.

If you don’ t make the promotion you wanted, it is ok to be upset but don’ t let it linger, “ get over it” and move on making sure that the next time you take a promotional exam you “ ace it.” This is when you turn a negative experience and make it work for you by being the best candidate on the list and make it difficult for the Chief not to select you.

Sure I know that there are times that everything turns south and it is almost impossible to stay positive, but that is when you have to dig deeper inside yourself and find that positive influence and work with it when you are with your peers and the citizens of your community. Don’ t let others dictate your feelings. You be the positive role model and have the “ can do” attitude. I guarantee that you will feel different about yourself and your profession. And soon others might just change their attitude and improve the work environment. It is worth a shot, what do you have to lose.


Stay Positive!

If any of you have any other ideas or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Also if there are any topics you wish to discuss, let me know by using our "Ask the Chief" form at the top of the page.


Choose a job you love and you will never work another day in your life

Choose a job you love and you will never work another day in your life. I have always believed that if you look forward to challenges, enjoy the unknown, have the ability to think "outside the box" and you're not afraid of taking responsibility for your actions them you will have a great time being a supervisor. During the promotional process, I know what administrators are looking for in their personnel and I will share this inside information with you so you will have an edge over your competition.