Anyone can be a supervisor; or can they?

It looks easy and anyone can do it, right? Be careful what you seek; it is not all that you think.

Take Challenges – My mentor chief Dave Gellatly used to use the phrase of “this is a mandatory opportunity to excel”, which translates to you are getting ready to take a professional challenge head-on. Often these were assignments that groomed you for the next station in life. You were no longer in a comfort zone and you were forced to work harder and smarter to reach the goals. If you have an opportunity to test your mettle and make your resume shine, do it. Staying in your comfort zone is like never lifting a heavier weight, you will never grow. Look around for challenges on and off the job to test your knowledge, skills and abilities, these will pay-off when you least expect it.

Read- See what the chief is reading or what he or she holds as philosophy. You can read and it can never hurt you. I want you reading off the promotional reading list. Learning how to think like a supervisor or whatever is beneficial to you.

Training/College- If you do not have a degree or have not yet completed your degree, do so. Even if it is not required, having a degree is something that nobody can ever take away from you. You earned the letters. Police training is another thing all together. If you are seeking promotion try to take the best training programs that are slated for the supervisor. These may not be available to you due to rank, but keep trying to get in.

Field Training Officer/ Instructor – If you are a field training officer (FTO) this is an immediate bonus! The FTO is a one-on-one supervisor which to me is the most difficult of all. Here you are exhibiting that you can make decisions over others’ performance and direction. A police instructor is another great launching pad to promotion. More than anything else, it gives you experience in public speaking. Most police officers fear public speaking more than fighting off a platoon of zombies. Most assessment centers have a podium speaking element. Take the FTO or instructor challenge. It is a resume highlight and pays off big dividends.

Decide and go forth- You and you alone must look into the mirror and ask you the question. ‘Do you have what it takes?” There are some officers I know who have spent their career as a patrol officer, were true professionals and loved every minute of it. Could they have made more as a three striper, yes but did not want the aggravation. On the other hand there are those you who want the big challenge, nothing wrong here just go about it correctly. First and foremost, build on your knowledge, skills and abilities to prepare you to take the challenges. It is not a beauty contest for if it was I do not think I would have gotten out of the gate. Prepare to take the assessment but proper preparation will position you to success. 


About The Author:

William L. "Bill" Harvey is a native Virginian. He served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He has a BA in criminology from St. Leo University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville (103rd AOC). Harvey served for over 23 years with the Savannah (GA) Police Department. He served in field operations, investigations and support services, and completed his career there as the director of training. He has published several articles in professional periodicals and has lectured nationwide. He is serving as a chief of police in central Pennsylvania area; a duty he’s performed for the past nine years. He is on the advisory board of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association and other professional associations.

  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.