You really can't expect politicians to
appreciate civil service.  True, politicians
passed the laws to create civil service,
but they had little choice.  When public
service corruption reaches an intolerable
level, even politicians have to do the right
thing...to a point.

In chapter six of my book, I mention the
weight of civil service examinations. Let's
look at a couple of ways civil service
examinations can be administered by
your police department.  In the first
example, we have a written examination
which consists of 70% of your final
score.  The written examination consists
solely of multiple choice questions that
measures what you know and what you
don't know.  Some people ridicule
multiple choice testing, because such
questions leave no room for other points
of view.  Sorry, an objective examination
is not looking for your subjective point of

Okay, you've taken your written
examination for police sergeant, and
you've scored well.  As a matter of fact,
you're number 20 out of the top 100
candidates who made the cut.  Now,
you're on your way to the oral interview.  
You'll have three people interviewing
you.  The three interviewers are all police
officers of various higher ranks from
police departments outside your
jurisdiction.  They may introduce
themselves by name and rank, or they
may not.  You will not introduce yourself,
because these people aren't suppose to
know your name.  Any oral interview is
tough, but this is as good as it gets.

This time, when you take the test, you
score the same position of 20 out of 100
on the written examination.  But, this
time, the written portion of the test is
only worth 30% of your final score.  This
time, your interviewers for the oral
examination are all higher ranking police
officers from within your own police
department.  There's no need for them
to introduce themselves, because you
already know them.  They may, or may
not, know you; however, your concern
should be how many of the other 99
candidates they do know.

You see, the politician's idea of a merit
promotion is best accomplished under
the second example.  Politicians, and
those police officers, who move into the
politically appointed higher ranks of police
departments have unflinching faith in
their own subjective judgements.  Sure,
they'll claim to be objective, but could
you really believe them?  The truth is,
people frequently need help with
objectivity.  Whenever a process can be
implemented to ensure maximum
objectivity, it's a good thing.
Manipulation is the Goal
If I had my way, every police promotional
examination would consist entirely of a
written examination.  The questions
would be multiple choice, and the wrong
answers would not be too obvious.  
There would be a lot more than a
hundred, or so, questions.  Five hundred
questions would be the minimum, and
they'd cover every area of knowledge
applicable to the position.

Talk about a level playing field.  Of
course, those who always talk about the
level playing field would be those howling
the loudest if anyone tried to implement
such a comprehensive written
examination without any accompanying
process more prone to manipulation.

When I first took the examination for
police sergeant, the written portion
consisted of 50%; the oral interview was
30%, and you could receive a maximum
of 5 percentage points for seniority.  The
remaining 15 percentage points came in
the form of a commander's rating.  The
top eighty (80) candidates from the
written test would go on to compete
under the additional criteria.

As then, most departments now permit
police officers to take the police
sergeant's promotional examination after
three (3) years of service.  Under this
system, the three year police officer
would immediately lose two percentage
points; a four year police officer one
point.  At the five year mark you'd get
your five free points.  The seniority part
could be overcome if one did
exceptionally well on the written and oral
portions of the examination.  The first to
last candidate on the final list was rarely
separated by more than 3 percentage
points.  The last thing to come was the
commander's rating.  What a crock.  
Your Commander had the ability to sink
you by simply rating you as excellent with
14 points as apposed to outstanding
with the full 15 points.

Now, think about this for a moment.  If a
written examination determines who will
go on to all the other hoops a process
has to negotiate, why not just expand
the written portion to further identify
those who are the most qualified for
promotion.  After all, what's so bad
about having police officers in leadership
positions who actually have the
knowledge to do the job.  The tried and
tired response to that is, and always will
be, some police officers are just good
test takers while others aren't.

The true response is that promotions in
a police department is a very big deal,
and competitive examinations for
promotions are okay as long as there's a
way to manipulate the outcome…the
more room for manipulation the better.  
The simple fact is it's all about power and
consolidation of power.  It's okay if a
police officer promoted has knowledge,
but it's more important for that police
officer to be known, and acceptable, to
those in power.

With the wisdom of hindsight, I can say
that promotion to police sergeant should
require a minimum of ten years
experience as a patrol officer.  You don't
have to worry about that ever
happening, because seniority as a
requirement, or benefit, for anything is
dead and gone.  Any person, in any
organization, who moves up rapidly,
faces difficulties supervising people with
more work experience.  In police work,
those difficulties are vast and varied and
magnified under real crisis situations.

At this point, you simply can't appreciate
how many ways you can get into
trouble.  As a police supervisor with
minimal work experience those ways are
only multiplied by the number of police
officers under your supervision.  You're
already at some disadvantage since you'll
be entering a police work force loaded
with young police supervisors with limited
experience, and that youth and limited
experience even extends into the highest
ranks of many departments.  Power and
patronage can be just as corrupt when
practiced by young leaders as well as by
older ones.  It's just that the older ones
are more experienced at keeping corrupt
practices under control.
Look... I know the last thing on your
mind right now is how bureaucratic
corruption will affect your police career.  
But, at some point in your police career,
you'll probably become a victim of that
corruption, and you'll wonder why you
didn't see it coming.
Politicians would like to convince everyone
that civil service is the reason why things
are screwed up at every level of
government.  They ignore the years of
continual dilution and manipulation of civil
service by corrupt and politically
motivated practices as the real reasons
for incompetence and inefficiency within
the systems of government.
Instead of calling for a strengthening of
civil service rules based on real measures
of merit, their goal is the total elimination
of competitive competition in favor of
their superior subjective evaluations of
If you think it's difficult now being hired
as a police officer, imagine what your
chances would be like under a totally, or
near total, subjective process.  In one
system suggested, you'd be classified as
"unqualified," "qualified," highly qualified,"
"most qualified."  Do these terms sound
familiar?  United States Supreme Court
Justice nominees receive similar ratings
from the American Bar Association.  But,
of course, everybody knows that politics
has nothing to do with those ratings.
What a joke; although, funny it's not.  
"Unqualified" is obvious to any idiot.  
"Qualified" and "highly qualified" are
superfluous and useless terms since
"most qualified" is obviously the only
term that counts.  Of course, you do
need a couple of "feel good" categories to
put everyone who never had a shot in
the first place.
This is a true story...
A police sergeant was awaiting his
promotion to lieutenant.  His position on
the final scored civil service list ensured
his elevation on the first round of
promotions.  However, the police chief
had the authorization to skip a certain
number of people for promotion, and the
sergeant found himself to be a victim of
the chief's arbitrary and capricious use of
a power for which he wasn't even
required to provide an explanation.
The sergeant requested a meeting with
the chief.  To the sergeant's surprise,
and the chief's credit, the chief accepted
the sergeant's request.  The sergeant
had prepared extensive documentation
detailing his qualifications for promotion
which he presented to the chief.  The
chief did a perfunctory review of the
documentation feigning interest; after
which, the sergeant simply ask the chief,
"Why did you skip me for promotion?"  
Although the sergeant was seated, he
nearly fell from his chair when the chief
answered, "Nobody spoke up for you."
It took a few seconds for the sergeant to
verify to himself he'd heard the chief
correctly.  The sergeant then ask, "Who
is nobody?"  The chief went on to explain
his process; wherein, his colonels made
the determination who would be skipped
for promotion.  The sergeant then ask,
"Who spoke against me?"  This time the
sergeant was firmly seated in his chair
when the chief replied that no one had
spoken against him.
The sergeant, remaining calm and
respectful, stated his disbelief of a
process wherein a person is "blackballed
through silence."  The chief, taking on
the tone a "Dutch Uncle" said, "Look,
Sarge, you've got to understand that
everyone that high on the list is equal."  
The sergeant couldn't believe the
unadulterated nonsense he was hearing.  
However, the sergeant theoretically
accepted the chief's premise that
everyone was equal.  The sergeant then
pointed out that the mathematical
ranking of candidates, provided by the
Civil Service Commission, ensured
fairness to all of the "equally qualified"
Needless to say, that chief never again
met with anyone he would skip for
promotion.  This instance demonstrates
what little protection already exists for
fair and qualified advancement even
under civil service.  The simple truth, in
this instance, is that there were a finite
number of lieutenant positions available,
and friends, or friends of friends of the
colonels were farther down on the list.  
You'll soon learn that corruption comes in
a variety of forms.  Some forms are
obvious while others are subtle and
cloaked in altruistic rhetoric.  I cringe
when I hear a politician attempt to
weaken a civil service process by saying
that merit should be given more
consideration than a civil service
examination.  What does that politician
think a civil service examination is based
"I know the last thing on your mind
right now is how bureaucratic
corruption will affect your police
career.  But, at some point in your
police career, you'll probably become
a victim of that corruption, and you'll
wonder why you didn't see it
coming." ~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2015  Barry M. Baker  
Police and

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