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When you apply to a police department, you'll probably be presented with a sunny picture of all the opportunities
available for advancement defined by length of service and examinations. At that point you'll believe that your
acquisition of knowledge, experience, and your placement on competitive examinations will determine your subsequent
lateral or upward movement within the department. Think again.
Have you ever wondered why the true definition of politics has been long lost? It's probably because politics is most
often associated with people who use means other than quality and substance to seek advancement. When you begin
your career as a police officer, you're going to see a lot of politics defined as who you know and who knows you. How
you're known and by whom will have everything to do with your ability to obtain assignments or advancements
regardless of your expertise or qualifications.
The culture of politics exists everywhere; however, unlike private enterprise where profit is indispensable, government is
simply a quagmire of political corruption, nepotism, and favoritism...some governments are just worse than others.
Since profit is not a consideration in government, it can carry considerably more dead weight than any private enterprise.
The size of the police department you join will determine how many people reside in the dead weight category. You'll
soon learn that just because a person is considered dead weight by most, that classification need not negatively affect
that person's lateral or upward movement. During your career you'll work with and for people who are clearly in over
their heads. In government, unlike private industry, these people can last for a long time. In those instances where
they begin causing harm, they'll simply be moved to a position where they can do less harm. You'll even see these types
promoted and hidden away from operational activities.
Don't despair. Things are the way they are. In the beginning, you'll have your hands full just learning the things you
need to learn. As a new police officer, you'll be in patrol which is literally the backbone of your police department. You
should give yourself at least three years as a patrol officer, before you start thinking about moving onward and upward.
Realistically, three years will only provide you limited experience; however, I too was young once, and I realize how
young people think. You could, as I did, shun the intrigue of departmental politics and remain a patrol officer for twenty
years...as I did. Looking back, I did it the hard way. However, I had tons of experience once I dodged all the roadblocks.
If you decide to get into the politics of the job, your biggest and most critical decision will be who to suck up to. Things
and circumstances can change rapidly. In the past, police culture was a pretty stable environment. Not so today. You
could find yourself investing a lot of time and effort cultivating relationships with people who are in today and out
tomorrow. The successful suck up will keep his or her options open. In other words, sucking up is an art defined in two
parts: the suck up's ability to not offend those who could be part of the tomorrow crowd; and the suck up's ability to
seamlessly transfer allegiances on very short notice.
The real trick to sucking up is maintaining your integrity. For some, sacrificing one's integrity is not a big deal. While
sacrificing your integrity will make sucking up a lot easier, that's not the way you want to go. Those who suck up while
maintaining their integrity are those who practice sucking up as a true art form.
Things would really be nice if everything were based on true and fair competition. The strength and quality of your
efforts and accomplishments would be the determining factors in establishing your level of advancement within your