Promotion Process For UK Cops

Having passed my OSPRE exams in 2009 for Sergeant to Inspector and received some very positive encouragement from both my SMT and external stakeholders, I finally decided to attempt the promotion process so as to obtain a couple of “pips”.

Now as you read on, please bear in mind that the last promotion exercise I went through was around 2006.

I commence with the paper sift and having covered the role of Inspector for the last 20 months, I feel exceptionally confident (perhaps a little too confident). However, I completed the form, matching up my examples with the Police Professional Framework criteria and after checking it, I hit the submit button.

Around 2 weeks later, I receive an email telling me that I had been successful and requesting dates for my availability to attend a promotion panel. I provide dates and wait for confirmation of the “big day”.

The big day.

So the day arrives and I have been selected to attend an interview process some considerable distance away from where I live and am posted – as it turns out this was quite a good thing!

I set off early as I hate being late and try my best not to crease my trousers or scuff my polished boots – eventually arriving at my destination in one piece. On my arrival I become very aware that I am early and as such, I decide that a Costa (other coffee brands are available and I have no association direct or indirect with Costa) is in order while I look over my notes and examples. It is at this point that my disaster commences, while sipping my Costa, I have a coughing fit and in the fracas of this, I manage to spill half a cup of “Latte light” all down my shirt!

Still being a prepared chap – I think to myself; “don’t panic – you can always wear your fleece over the top and this will hide the mess” (yes my force is one that no longer provides tunics – and although I do have one from when I joined, I am ashamed to say that I have put on a few pounds so in the interest of comfort and not having to breathe in throughout the interview………..).

Despite my setback, I attend my interview panel location and am met with a warm and friendly smile, which I respond to with some light chat prior to being taken into a small room where I have some flip chart paper, a couple of pens and a mountain of text to read, digest and assist me in preparing my preparation about Sanford Police Station and its issues. After 30 minutes I am told that my time is up and asked to follow the “warm smiler” into the panel room.

On entering the room, I see three people sat behind a long table – each of significant rank, while sat a least 15 ft away from the table is a solitary chair – like an abandoned and unloved island in the middle of a savage ocean. Well I guessed that was for me and instinctively, I walked over to the chair and began to move it closer to the table only to be told to leave it where it was.

After initial introductions, I was asked to commence my 10 minute presentation which I had prepared and feeling confident (I have done a lot of public speaking before through my former job in sales, as well as ensuring that I deliver presentations in my policing career), I stood up by the flip chart and commenced my delivery.

It was all going rather well, I felt full of energy and enthusiasm, I had my coffee stain covered by my fleece and the audience were leaning in and listening with great intensity – fantastic!

Around the 5 minute mark as the three panel members were deep in trance with my presentation, suddenly from an area around the upper left hand side of my chest there was a rather familiar noise “Ring, Ring……………Ring, Ring”. What could I do – I looked at them, they looked at me, until eventually I passed my apologies and took the phone out of my top left fleece pocket (which I had only put in due to the Costa disaster) and placed it on silence.

From there on in the process was a complete disaster and I may as well have been wearing a Father Christmas hat and a pair of slippers – I came across as a complete buffoon (which is why I am grateful I had to travel so far, as I did not know any of the panel members – which saved me some embarrassment). Needless to say, I failed the process, which in fairness was the right decision as it clearly reflects the fairness and objectivity of the process.

I am still licking the wounds from that day and rebuilding my pride, as everyone was certain I would pass – however, clearly it was my own fault that I did not. While I was pleased that I had failed as it did show how objective the system is, it did make me start to question if this really was the best process for promotion.

While the process is objective and fair, it is clearly all about “the day” and nothing which you have done previously really matters. I get that this prevents nepotism, but equally it means that those who have proven they can do the job – might not get through, while others may be coached to get through.

I know this will sound like “sour grapes” – it really isn’t. I am very happy being back to Sergeant (yes after 20 months, I returned to the role of operational Sergeant) – I can leave the office and meet the people we serve as well as some of the customers of the service we provide. However, is there a better way forwards for promotion which takes a broader look at the individuals skills, knowledge and attitude? Of course, I knew the process and as such can not complain and I don’t – but I do ponder on how we could improve the system.

I am not sure there will ever be such a process which strikes the right balance between objectivity and common sense – so I have decided that I will seek some training/coaching for the next promotion board and more importantly, I will avoid Costa!

4 thoughts on “Promotion Process For UK Cops”

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for posting this. It raised a couple of smiles …the costa catastrophe … the unwelcome caller and it’s refreshingly honest, so thanks for that 🙂 The questions you raise around alternative tests and/or processes for promotion selection are a variation on a common theme – One I am sure many unsuccessful promotion candidates reflect upon in the aftermath of a ‘bad board’ experience.

    I’m sure it was also a learning experience even if it was an unwelcome one.

    I haven’t selected an option on your survey as there are other or certainly different questions I would ask. Whilst the framework you are assessed against in your force as with the majority of forces, is the Policing Professional Framework (PPF) there are others.

    The Metropolitan Leadership Framework (MLF) is in place in London and the College of Policing has also produced a new Competency and Values Framework (CVF). Confused? You may be. But as you can see, there are already different processes and tests in place in different forces, at different times, for different ranks…so there is no one process.

    Promotion candidates always have been and probably always will be guinea pigs for new processes. Fair? Don’t go there…tests are not fair, those that practice have an advantage…its always been that way!

    Successful candidates prepare thoroughly. A depth and breadth of preparation that places them beyond their competition by raising personal awareness and developing professional confidence. Effective preparation is not a ‘pick and mix’ menu. It’s a comprehensive approach. Many simply never connect with that. And as with some officers who contact me in a last final ditch attempt after several promotion board failures (just imagine the emotional investment alone in that!), it’s a real ‘lightbulb’ moment when they realise (often very quickly) what they are (or are not) doing that has held them back.

    But, whatever process is in place, the armies ‘for and against’ will line up to have their say. On that you can depend.

    Meanwhile? To paraphrase Nike, hundreds of candidates who ‘get it’ …. will ‘Just do it’ –

    Kind regards


    Steve Cooper

  2. Steve, thanks for your comments – and great to hear it brought about a smile or two.

    You make some genuinely valid points and I have certainly considered some external input and support via organisations such as

    I take the points raised in relation to the ever evolving promotion/board process and certainly learnt a lot from my rather comical experience.

    Note to self for the future – no pre-interview coffee and ensure mymobile is switched off.

    On a serious note, prepare, prepare, prepare……

    Kind regards,

    Patrol Officer

  3. So, after 4 years – I have decided to give promotion another try.

    I have had a superb time in my current role and still feel an immense sense of pride in the work I undertake and the people I work with. Change within the policing service is continuing at a rapid pace and I have decided that now is a great time to be part of that change, influence it and support the teams with whom I work.

    As such I have invested in Steve’s Masterclass and guides as well as commenced some in depth reading.

    Already, I have identified how poorly prepared I was in 2017 and how I had assumed that my reputation would carry me through.

    While there is not date set yet within my police force for promotion boards and they are unlikely to be until the end of the year – I am seizing this opportunity to ensure that I am prepared and given it my best chance of standing out from the crowd.

    I have an interview next Wednesday for a period of Higher Grade Duties and of course there are no guarantees, but even just one week of working through the tools provided by has given me confidence and focus. I will be treating this as a mock board process and it will help me identify my areas for development.


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