I have a chance to be a supervisor - now what?

Feb. 15, 2008
With all of the baby boomers retiring, more promotional opportunities are available.

With all of the baby boomers retiring, more promotional opportunities are available. The question for you is, "Are you ready for the next challenge in your career?"

When you decide that the time is right to take the Leadership Plunge and test for a supervisory position within your department, you have several things to consider. When you become a supervisor, there will be numerous changes that will occur with you and your position within the department. I usually relate this to various positions of a baseball team. For example:

As an Officer you are one of the players on the field involved in the day-to-day activities such as making arrests, going to court, or being involved in various assignments etc. You are the star player!

When you promote to the rank of Sergeant things will start to change for the better. You become the sideline coach of the team; still on the playing field, but not as involved as before. As a sergeant (which I believe is one of the most important positions in the Department) you are a first line Supervisor and have direct contact with all of the troops. You monitor all of their activities, develop your personnel, and are a direct conduit from the troops to the administration. Basically, you are monitoring the pulse of the organization by having first hand information as to what the troops are thinking and need as well as what the Administration is thinking and what their needs are.

When you reach the rank of Lieutenant the position is similar to the manager of the team. You are in the dugout, off the field for the most part, but still in charge of everything that takes place "between the lines." You are even more involved in the development of your personnel and the evaluation of their performance.

As a Captain you have become the General Manager, off the field and watching the game from the GM's box. As a division commander, you are now responsible for your officers and supervisors. You develop these personnel so they perform as a unit and they have the same philosophy as the chief of police.

When you have reached the rank of Chief of Police, you are the owner of the team, away from the active day-to-day involvement out in the field, but responsible for the sworn, and non-sworn personnel who help run the department. Not only do you monitor everything, you are responsible for everything and the "buck stops at your desk."

Utilizing this analogy is the easiest way that I can explain some of the changes that may take place when you begin to promote through the ranks. As you can see, it is exciting to watch how in each position you can participate in the development of your personnel, your department, and especially yourself.

Now is the time to obtain the job description for the position you are attempting to attain. Your personnel department should have these documents, which are very important because they will tell you exactly what your department is looking for in the candidate testing for this position. Review these job descriptions and verify that you have met all of the qualifications necessary for the position. Keep them handy because we will refer to them later on.

Something else to consider is that each agency has its own personality or "culture." This is determined by many variables such as the citizens of your community, the City Council, the City Manager, and the Chief of Police. "Culture" can best be defined as, "the belief and values of a group." This group has shared attitudes and the same philosophy. Therefore, no two agencies are alike. For example, we all are involved in law enforcement but the way we enforce these laws, and how we provide customer service to our citizens differs from agency to agency. The "culture" of the organization along with the philosophy of the Chief of Police dictates the policy and procedures on how the officers and supervisors are expected to act in the field.

Is your agency pro-active or reactive? Does your department have a "get in your face" attitude with all contacts or does it endorse a "Community Oriented Policing" philosophy and only "gets in your face" when the situation requires it? You probably already know the expectations of your agency by observing the actions of your immediate Supervisors and how the Chief of Police runs his or her department. If you are uncomfortable with these actions and do not feel that you can actively participate as a supervisor in this environment, then don’t take the exam. If you truly want to be a supervisor, then it is probably the right time to look for another agency whose culture and philosophy you can support. This will also assist you in achieving your goals. Once you know the culture of your organization and make the decision to support it, you are ready to continue to the next phase.

This phase requires you to take a lot of time and ask yourself a very important question regarding this promotional process. You must be very honest and ask yourself, "Do I really want the position and why?" Think it over; don't just say, "Because I know I can do it!" After giving this question some serious thought and determining that you do want the position, then the fun really begins.

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