Selecting the Right Candidate for Promotion
By Christopher Scilingo
What happens when the wrong person gets a promotion and moves up into management? It’s probably not that big of a deal. It happens all the time in both the public and private sectors. The decision may ruffle some feathers and others who thought they were deserving of the new position may be upset for a time, but life will go on. That wrong person for the job will soon learn to do the right job and step up to the plate and rise to the occasion, or they will continue to be the wrong person, but now in a position of management or leadership. However, what happens when there are multiple unqualified, incompetent outright "bad eggs" moving up the ladder? What happens when there is a culture of promoting employees based solely on their reciprocated relationships with those who are in power who make the decisions of who moves up the management hierarchy? You see where I am going with this, don't you? Apply this scenario to the law enforcement organization that you are a member of.
This seems all too common in law enforcement organizations that are manipulated by elected officials and members of governing bodies. Greek philosopher Plato even touched on this subject around 380 B.C. in Book III of The Republic. Plato warned that talented people must rise up the social hierarchy or else society may collapse, and he warned against the rise of those who lack talent but are related to those in power. Can we apply Plato’s words to law enforcement organizations? Sure we can! If we adjust our point of view and change a few words, we can alter its application. There is a correlation between poorly functioning law enforcement departments and the unqualified candidates who are chosen to move up in ranks. The real blunder in this example is from those who are in power who outright choose a candidate to move up based on nothing more than the relationship that they share. Can you foresee a departmental collapse or failure from this continued method? I can, but why can’t those in power see it?
Those making promotion decisions must know that supervisors, managers and leaders are all integral positions that are required to operate an organization, especially paramilitary law enforcement organizations with rules, regulations, ranks and so on. Wouldn't those who are in power want to promote the right candidates for the positions so that those candidates will aid in the operation of an effective law enforcement organization? The goal should be to maintain an effective law enforcement organization that will, in turn, provide exceptional services to the people who make up communities, towns, and cities. They are an essential component to governing bodies. Those governing bodies and others in power should be focused on providing people with the best services possible. Sadly, this is seldom the case and we as law enforcement officers know all too well that politicians seem to want to benefit themselves before benefiting others. So if a politician benefits themselves by returning a favor to a law enforcement officer that shares a relationship with them, let's say promotion in this case, but that law enforcement officer is neither qualified nor capable of the promotion, and this happens on a business as usual basis, who suffers? The law enforcement organization as a whole suffers, policing services suffer, and the people we're sworn to serve suffer.
Profound procedures need to be in place to sift through all the rank and file talents, experiences and inabilities. No single promotional exam or review board can possibly pick the best candidate for promotion. These systems are in place to make the process appear fair. However, law enforcement departments without some form of “testing” other than politicians appointing their friends will always suffer. In those cases, there needs to be in place a standardized method for selection to determine the better candidates for promotion. At least with a test, the most incompetent of the candidates will not pass or score well enough to qualify. Although it may not be a foolproof method of selecting the right candidate, a test still separates candidates and holds them accountable to a standard for qualification. It should never be acceptable to have those in power handing out promotions on a quid pro quo basis. The very best should be promoted to serve our communities.