When a young aspiring officer ponders the announcement for a promotional opportunity they have many decisions to make. One will be the one that they will not think of: how could this promotion impact my personal life? The easier question would be, how many friends will I lose if this comes to fruition? Taking the test for any supervisory rank is all fun and games until somebody gets promoted and the others are “passed over”. Then it gets real and often very personal.
We all have a story so here is mine. My old watch had a monthly poker game on the Sunday night after midmonth pay day. Nothing fancy, the rules were a $20 limit on nickel and dime poker. Everyone had to bring enough drinks to share, a bag of snacks and no gold shields were allowed. The department at that time issued all officers and sergeants silver shields, the rank of lieutenant to chief were gold shields. This visible ‘division’ of the ranks made an indelible line in the sand that was not crossed. This was similar to the Enlisted and Officer’s clubs in the military; you only associated with your equals. Now I dearly loved that game, for an evening of cigars, drinks, laughs and pals was that comradery and inclusiveness that we all desire in a working group. We never did anything outlandish like something from a Joseph Wambaugh novel, just a good night to be off-duty with your watch. Never won much money but just would give anything for one of those days again. The day I was promoted to lieutenant was the week prior to the game. After the ceremony was over, one of the senior corporals of the group came up to shake my hand and told me “don’t show up Sunday, you know the rules, no gold shields allowed,” I was crushed, for then the reality of separation of friends can and will occur after promotions. I knew and obeyed the rules.
If you are seeking promotion or even an executive post, you know the rules now and will be treated differently due to your new station in life. Now back to my tale of woe, yes I was forced to hang out with the other guys, the commissioned officers. This takes time to acclimate into for now these are the ones you never intermingled with and now are the ‘in group’. Try becoming the Chief of police in a new town, new department, you will feel like the Maytag repair man (the loneliest guy in town). You want to learn how to fit in and you never really do for the lack of the commonalty with the troops. They will always reminisce over great and wonderful escapades that occurred before you. They will give you directions or refer to landmarks by the name it was called thirty years prior to your arrival. It creates an insider verses outsider atmosphere with you, so you are forced to create formal or developing relationships.
I will remind you that the strength of family and close friends are all you may have in a new town. Earning the chief’s chair which has an awesome view but is often a lonely view. I was recently told by my only son that he felt I was narcissistic in that I loved ‘the job’ and my position in life more than my family at times. Many a cop has heard this as well due to the dedication to the job, you will miss soccer games, recitals and holidays. This is a part of the turf that stresses many marital and family relationships. I will tell you the same thing that I told my son, in this line of work you have to have a strong personality to survive in this job. Chiefs and sheriffs who do not have that inner drive can be eaten alive by those who attack them. When it hits the perennial fan and the news crews are swirling and council is questioning you, you have got to believe in yourself and be confident about yourself. My Irish priest told “you must love yourself to lead others” for you must care for yourself to be there for them. Additionally, nobody ever wanted to follow a dismal or droll man or woman into the heat of battle. If you are not secure in your leadership, nobody will follow you. Therefore, you do have to believe in yourself and admire yourself at times to do so. So, my lad was not too far off-base with his statement, although still a tad jaded about something I missed years ago.
The quest for a leadership position is a difficult one but once you obtain it, there are no promises it will be a warm and fuzzy experience. There will be times that you will question yourself in why you even sought this as a rewarding experience. You will find yourself at times where you have nobody to confer with and times you will be alone, it is not easy. Nobody promises you a rose garden and you can be assured of thorns. My advice to you is that you will have great emotional and stressful times during this assignment so be prepared for them. You should ask not only of yourself, but your family unit (spouse, kids, in-laws and pets) can they first tolerate me in this position and secondly can I depend on you when our friends’ kids can’t play with the chief’s kids. Your quest and path is noble but it has tolls that can be high. Is the view worth it? In my book the answer is absolutely yes but you need to write your own script in life.