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Open Letter to Police Scotland Promotion Candidates

An Open Letter to Police Scotland Promotion Candidates

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but the seeds you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Dear Police Scotland Promotion Candidate,

With Police Scotland preparing to adopt a new police promotion assessment framework to select Sergeant and Inspector ranks in 2020, several hopeful candidates wanting to learn more about this new challenge have contacted me. Given the mix of questions I’ve fielded, I thought it helpful to offer you some guidance and food for thought around this valuable career progression opportunity.


A New Promotion Framework for Scottish Policing?

The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

Police Scotland will be using a locally-adapted version of the Competency and Values Framework (CVF) for sergeant and inspector in upcoming promotion selection processes from December 2020. So from the date of this letter, you have the luxury of over six months’ notice to think, plan and take action! To put that in perspective, officers in many forces receive just a few weeks warning of a promotion process, which most candidates use as their starting pistol for preparation. Six months is a fantastic opportunity to get ahead of the curve!

The CVF may seem like a fresh approach in Police Scotland, but it’s old news elsewhere. Most forces in England, Wales and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) already switched from the Policing Professional Framework(PPF)some time ago. Even the MET now use this national policing standard!

The CVF is essentially a values-based assessment framework. It applies to police promotions, recruitment and other selection processes. The purpose of introducing the CVF is to help policing adapt to new demands and challenges. But is the CVF really that different from other frameworks? As I refer to and map out in my guides, no it’s not: It’s just the latest lens through which forces are looking for effective sergeants and inspectors to lead the next generation of police officers.

Effective CVF candidates look the same through the lens of any ‘framework’!

The Rumour Mill…

Rumour thrives in the palace of uncertainty..”Martin Uzochukwu Ugwu

From current emails, calls and messages, it would appear the rumour mill is already working overtime about what the CVF is, what it isn’t and some mixed messages. That’s understandable when you have a mix of uncertainty and individuals hungry for promotion!

The devastating impact of ‘Chinese whispers’ is outlined by the story about an army spread out across a valley. In a long line of soldiers ready to attack, a whispered order comes from the front of the line, “Send reinforcements, the General is going to advance. Pass it on.” By the time the message reaches those at the back, they hear this: “Send three and four pence, the General is going to a dance.” A similar thing happens when promotion candidates seek advice from a range of colleagues. Rarely is it consistent and is often wrong or not helpful, even though passed with good intent. Clearly it’s important to find out for yourself what is happening.

Here are some recent queries from Police Scotland officers planning ahead and seeking meaningful information to help convert their leadership aspirations into promotion success. They inspired me to write this letter to you and I’ve added a short response below each of them.

Question 1: “Is the CVF the same across the board? I am advised we have new clusters, which include ‘emotionally aware’ ‘collaborative’, ‘ownership’ etc, which is a move away albeit similar to our previous ‘PPQs’, so I’m looking to confirm the Sergeant’s guides you offer cover this?”

Yes, the CVF is the same across the board. For promotion selection processes, candidates up to Chief Inspector rank are assessed at Level 2. Levels don’t apply to the CVF values, but do for the behaviours (aka ‘competencies’). ‘Clusters’ merely refer to the grouping of competencies. The important thing is instead to focus on the competencies. There are six competencies, with some similarity to PPF personal qualities and yes, the Sergeant’s digital toolkit covers what you need for success.

Be aware of a slight curveball: Police Scotland has locally modified the values of the College’s CVF to fit with the Police Scotland bespoke values and Code of Ethics. The four Police Scotland ‘values’ are summarised as Fairness, Integrity, Respect and Human Rights.

Question 2: “I work in Police Scotland & I understand our PC to Sergeant process is changing to the CVF, a departure from previous years. Can you advise if your material is suitable to my needs and if so, what you would recommend?”

Whilst changing over to the CVF is a departure from the PPF, I encourage promotion candidates to look at other frameworks as part of promotion preparation, e.g. similarities and differences. In the digital promotion toolkits I offer, you’ll find detailed examples of structured promotion evidence against the CVF and other frameworks. I understand individual needs are different, so attending a Masterclass or utilising some bespoke coaching can massively help too.

I also provide lots of FREE resources to inform any decision to purchase my products or services. This includes this police promotion blog, more free articles on Police Hour and promotion tips on YouTube. When I receive feedback from newly promoted Sergeants like Stuart, I believe my approach is about right for now: “With assistance of your guides and blogs, which I read intently, I’ve passed the Sergeant board first attempt. Brilliant material gave me the edge, especially in the interview.”

Question 3: “What are the main differences between the old framework will be using and the new CVF? Do you have any services or literature to help?”

The College of Policing describes how the CVF differs from the PPF as follows: ‘A new set of future-looking competencies, different levels of responsibility and role complexity, with four defined measurable core values and behavioural indicators to define each value’. Note that as mentioned before, Police Scotland have made a localised CVF with differing values!

During selection processes, you will be expected to demonstrate how you apply the four values in your work, in addition to showing how you demonstrate the six specific competencies. If you are looking for help with that, here’s the nearest thing to ‘support’ that you can find in the College’s own guidance: “It is expected individuals will use professional judgement to assess the complexity and suitability of any evidence provided against the framework.”

‘Interpreting’ the CVF to marshal evidence you may have for promotion selection processes can prove frustrating, especially for busy operational cops. Similar issues are experienced within other forces using the CVF. So taking some time now to reflect and to get to know the framework will help you embed some of the key aspects. Aligning your specific evidence to demonstrate the competencies/values, often within tight word limits, is a challenge. However, it is also a test of your communication skills, offering insights into your emotional awareness and wider leadership potential. As an aspiring manager and line supervisor, leading others through change is part of the sergeant and inspector role. With that in mind, here’s a real-life reality check from a fictional character:

Change. We don’t like it, but we can’t stop it from coming. We either adapt or we get left behind. It hurts to grow, anybody who tells you it doesn’t is lying, but here’s the truth, sometimes the more things change things change the more they stay the same. – Meredith Grey


Opportunity Knocks!

While we are making up our minds as to when we shall begin, the opportunity is lost.” – Quintillion

The CVF is a change and it is different, but the good news is you have time to take action. Options to help you do that can include attending a promotion Masterclass, a personal review of your promotion application or bespoke 1-2-1 support.

As a qualified executive coach, leadership mentor and former detective inspector, I’m proud to have helped so many UK police officers to success. My role is to support and encourage you to become the best that you can be when it matters. I’m also personally inspired when newly promoted sergeants and inspectors’ are kind enough to let me know that I helped them to ‘demystify’ the promotion process.

For example, whilst you should read the College of Policing’s CVF guidance as part of your wider promotion preparation, it’s a whopping 18 pages. A good start is thinking of it in a ‘nutshell’ first:

6 competencies

4 defined values (tailored to Police Scotland values)

Assessed at Level 2

Whilst starting with the nutshell version can be reassuring, where do you go from there? Well, if you are taking promotion seriously, only you know when you will make the commitment to start. If you’ve read to here, you could consider learning to love the CVF. Why? Because the benefits are clear:

It’s a starting point full of golden nuggets to raise your awareness.

It describes what ‘good’ looks like.

It offers signposting, guidance and direction to help you align your evidence to the ‘new’ competencies and values. 


Start Your Journey…

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” – John Wooden

The road to police promotion can be a lonely journey and the terrain is rough. Gather all relevant information you can from the force on Police Scotland’s adapted CVF, or simply start with the College’s published guidance. Taking time to distil some key points from the guidance with a highlighter pen will pay dividends. Read the criteria for each competency in ‘bite size’ chunks to ensure it makes sense to you. This will better equip you to aligning meaningful and relevant evidence to specific competencies/values. Start writing that down, it will help with written promotion applications or interview responses alike.

Decide how the CVF makes sense for you. For example in my free guide on promotion frameworks, I started by translating some of the woolly behavioural language used. I’ve also blogged on specific competencies, e.g. what is meant by the competency, ‘We are emotionally aware’. ‘Learning to love the CVF’ with this smart preparation and absorbing it to your psyche will help underpin your performance in your force selection process.

Many officers make a conscious choice to leave promotion preparation to the last minute. That’s something painfully apparent to promotion panels. On the other hand, it’s a real pleasure for board members when they get to interview a candidate who is clearly well prepared.

I hope this letter has respectfully provoked your thinking around the opportunity you have to maximise your potential and to hit the ground running. If I can be of further assistance, please get in touch.

Yours faithfully, Steve


If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend my Police Promotion Masterclass or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a bunch of free guides plus free blog content both here on my Rank Success Blog and via my Police Hour articles.

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