You got the notice that you are being promoted! Outstanding, you have worked, studied, tested and endured for this moment. You deserve it and congratulations. However with this rite of passage in larger departments are often a second set of orders that may be attached. You are now transferred. What did you do wrong? You excelled at the job and positioned yourself for the promotion and now you are transferred, where did this all go wrong? Calm down, this is part of the master plan.
Granted many readers are in smaller agencies where transferred is not a way of life. This experience will elude them. This situation is extremely difficult, today you are a supervisor and yesterday you were one of the guys. I will cover this in a later column on how to maximize your promotional success in the smaller agency. But back to this dilemma, you are in another division or precinct, why gives?
My mentor chief had a reputation for transfers. As a matter of fact, until I became a chief in another department, I have never stayed this long in one office or assignment. His reasons and rationales were clear. There was experience and there was experience with exposure. Experience with exposure was his ultimate grooming tool. You may be a great patrol sergeant but have you ever worked in other assignments? If you desired a promotion, you will get moved to another unit; this to gain more exposure into another facet of police work. I was told repeatedly that this provides you with more in-depth foundations of experiences or exposure. Some may think that the new rank will give them exposure; sure... but not the way it is desired.
As you progress in rank, your assignments will become limited. There is only one patrol commander but you want to make that rank. The only vacancy may be in the criminal investigations division and you have never worked in detectiveland. See what I mean here? The higher you go in rank; there are fewer choices in assignments. Additionally the higher you go in rank; you require a wider breath of understanding of the entire police management process is required. Broadening your understanding will require you working out of the comfort zone and challenging you. As frightening as this may seem, it scares off the weak and strengthens those who dare.
Another word I never used in my career was comfortable. My mentor chief called me one day on the telephone and inquired how I was doing and progressing. He slipped the word into the conversation and I agreed that I was comfortable where I was. Upon my return from lunch, the unit secretary had an unusual look on her face. I walked into my office and found my transfer orders. Yes, I went down to find out I was comfortable and that was forbidden. If you are comfortable, you are not learning and not challenging yourself. The lesson here was get out of a comfort zone and the challenges are clearer than when you are in more happy environs. If you are comfortable now, take a challenge, if available, to position yourself for the future.
Another reason for the transfer is that you are now no longer one of the gang. It is extremely difficult for you to now direct, discipline and control the actions of the group you were hanging out with last week. When you are parked driver's door to driver's door for late night chats (we call that patrol spooning), you begin to understand the other officer. You begin to know their failing or weaknesses. If you now supervise him or her, you may cover, through loyalty, for their lack of KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities). Transferred to another unit, you must now observe, study and learn the new staff’s KSAs and performance. Here you are placed in the true position to learn what it is to be a sergeant or commander.
Do not be afraid of a new squad; despite how you have been told that they were. No, a police squad is not a group of 10 to 12 officers out to get you indicted. This transfer process should place them in a position to work with the new sergeant and to exemplify why they are good. The competitive spirit will prevail here. Of course, the perennial officer who will act like the bad kid in grade school with a substitute teacher will surface. Now, this is the time for the new sergeant to show what they are made of; this can be your first supervisor's test under fire. This adds to the exposure and grooming process.
When the promotion list comes out, some say that you had a lucky day. Each time you get promoted they will say you had two or three lucky days. Sometimes the transfers are the best part of the lucky days. My hope is you have a lucky day and the transfer is part of expanding your future opportunities.