The Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, Will Kerr KPM, OBE, has waived Sergeant promotion interview boards for aspiring Constables. This is big news and a bold move by CC Will Kerr KPM, OBE for securing candidates in this all-important first line leadership position.

In this blog I lay out how this came about, why it’s OK as part of the rich tapestry of promotion processes around the UK, what it means for candidates, and how you can learn from it. I also recently recorded a short podcast recording my thoughts on the matter (see below).

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca

Devon & Cornwall Decide to Ditch Interviews!

Like many forces, Devon and Cornwall Police usually conduct interviews and operational briefings in the latter competitive stages of a police promotion process. However, the Chief Constable has recently decided to put all candidates through who expressed an interest in promotion to Sergeant. In effect, the local Stage 3 of National Police Promotion Framework (NPPF) was a simple expression of interest.

This means that all candidates who were supported (and planned) to attend a Sergeant promotion board in the current ongoing promotion selection process will instead move straight to NPPF Stage 4. ‘Pass Go and collect £200’ if you like. Though of course promotion applications themselves can be brutal, the requirement to complete an in-person operational briefing exercise and promotion interview board has now disappeared.

The NPPF is a four-step promotion process for police officers seeking promotion to the rank of Sergeant or Inspector. As such, all candidates who recently entered the force’s current selection process and who had been given imminent promotion board dates, are deemed successful at NPPF Stage 3. I outline all the steps in my free ‘Journey to Promotion’ eGuide.

Police promotion steps in UK

Candidates will now go forward to NPPF Stage 4, being posted as temporary Sergeants for 12 months, pending work-based assessments leading to a professional qualification in police management. The promotion is then attained substantively once an officer has successfully completed all four steps of the NPPF, though it is rare for officers to regress after success at Stage 3.

“Hello Steve, I began my sgts process this time last year, exam to paper sifts then finally my board on Wednesday, started watching your short videos on your channel around presentations, answering questions, topics and the almighty plan on a page! Just received a call to say I passed, first time round for me, just wanted to send you an email to say thank you, the guidance and support you provide really did keep me on the right track, many thanks to you!” – Angela, passed Sergeant promotion board first time

A Sigh of Relief as the Hurdle is Cleared…

Women promotion barriers

This will undoubtedly be welcomed by the current cohort of aspiring candidates, all of whom were supported through an enhanced application process. No doubt there will be audible sighs of relief from most. Though possibly a little disappointment from those who supercharged their promotion preparation and were chomping at the bit to formally demonstrate to a promotion panel why they would be a fantastic choice for the force.

Whilst the decision comes late in the day for those in the process of preparing for interviews and briefing assessment, it’s doubtful there will be any issues raised by candidates. Having entered a process, committing themselves to be ‘in it to win it’, they have clearly benefitted from the zeitgeist. These individuals can now look forward to the next 12 months, appointed temporary in rank, working to achieve their substantive promotion through effective CPD.

This decision to waive the operational briefing exercise and interview board element however, is a one off. Like in other forces, Devon and Cornwall Police are always reviewing promotion selection processes including for 2023 (and beyond) and this particular decision to waive boards for Sergeant candidates relates only to the current process.

The decision to make this process essentially a ‘paper-based promotion’ will have followed a detailed assessment and discussions around organisational needs. For example, the need to have supervisors in place for delivering high quality of service to communities, while ensuring strong leadership to a less experienced workforce. There are also rare occasions when forces can do this because of a lack of competition. I.e., when available posts are more numerous than the pool of candidates remaining after a typical brutal paper-sift.

Competition is the Norm

Promotion competition

“Competition exists to choose who gets the prize when the prize can’t be shared.” – Andrew Harvey

Such hurdles being removed on your journey to promotion is likely to be a rare occurence. Normally things get more complex for candidates as forces seek only the best promotion candidates. ‘Good’ performance on a promotion board doesn’t always get you promoted. Being better than the good candidates doesn’t guarantee success either. Good, better, or best is a concept known to all.

The situation in Devon and Cornwall is a rare one. A passing ‘eye of the storm’ in terms of competition is likely why they’ve been able to take this unusual step for current promotion candidates. Generally, the pool of officers qualified for promotion and aspiring to substantive positions far exceeds any vacancies available. Ergo competition.

Highly competitive situations are good for the organisation and ultimately for the public if you think about it. Competition creates a choice of strong candidates for any appointed panel, to be able to then select the very best individuals on the day. Officers who take control of their preparation for promotion opportunities tend to find themselves being the “lucky” ones selected.

If you like the free materials, you can go a step further and purchase different digital tool kits and bundles. They are worth their weight in gold. It made my promotion journey that bit easier and helped me get the top score on my BCU. Steve and all the Rank Success materials were extremely helpful, even now starting out as a newly promoted Sergeant I feel it’s set me up with the right mindset in terms of CPD, having an awareness of wider policing issues etc. Now that my colleagues and the new PC’s I manage are going for the process, I can’t recommend Rank Success enough” – @PoliceSkipper – Passed Sergeant Promotion Board

Promotion Processes: Is there a Holy Grail?

“When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.” – Simon Sinek

Competition is an aspect of promotion selection processes that is frequently overlooked. 

I have written previously on the postcode lottery of promotion selection processes across forces. Aspects of this are often designed to facilitate a ‘sift’ of some sort to ensure numbers of applicants are reasonably manageable and an effective promotion process can be delivered. 

Force processes may include initial sifting stages, such as full competency-based applications. This requires candidates to learn to love the CVF, so they are providing meaningful evidence/examples which demonstrating policing values, leadership skills and competencies.

What’s clear is that many aspiring promotion candidates simply don’t like selection processes, no matter what they might look like. Many have protested at having to complete applications arguing they are not relevant, too time consuming or are unfair to those who find them difficult. What happens when Chief Constables have listened, granted their wishes, and removed promotion applications? You’ve guessed it, the ‘angry hares’ and ‘change victims’ don’t like the replacement process or elements either, such as Psychometric tests or briefing and presentation exercises. Be careful what you wish for springs to mind!

The short description of a Chief Constable’s job description is to deliver an effective and efficient police service. In doing so, when concerning promotion policy, many do listen and experiment with promotion processes, adhering to College of Policing guidance to use the CVF (or at least a locally-tailored version), whilst also experimenting and trialling methods. For example, the current mix and match approaches include strengths based interviews (SBI), presentations, operational/media briefings, role play exercises, PDR evidenced applications, and of course competency interviews. The Metropolitan Police are even reported to be reviewing their process to consider military-style leadership exercises.

Promotion selection processes are easy to criticise, no matter what they look like. They are not, never have been and probably never will be perfect. Newsflash: There is no holy grail. There’s 50 ways of doing it across the UK at any given time, then 50 new ways when things get tweaked the following year. There are however common denominators across all processes, aspects where you can take action and brief yourself now to get ahead of the competition, before your force selection process even gets announced.

How to get promoted to Sergeant

Back to the Shires

“Little by little, one travels far.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

Whilst it might seem unusual to waive promotion boards, the Chief Constable’s decision is very welcome news for this year’s Sergeant candidates in Devon and Cornwall. There is nothing in relation to the decision, which is outside national policy (NPPF) or College of Policing guidance. What is clear, or at least might be deduced from this decision is that the process was not significantly oversubscribed, equating to an absence of significant competition for available Sergeant vacancies. 

In this case, it’s all part and parcel of the postcode lottery for police career progression opportunities. Sometimes when rolling the dice and going for promotion, they may just roll for you! It’s another step travelled forward in these officer’s careers and as it turns out, a good day in the shires!

Little by little, these candidates will now be assessed and supported in the workplace, in post, and will also be required to complete a formal leadership qualification within 12 months. The force must also now implement a robust, fair and effective assessment process to facilitate the NPPF Stage 4 requirements for these individuals. These newly-promoted Sergeants are now in competition with themselves, to become the best leaders they can be. 

I hope you have found this blog interesting and insightful. If you’re one of those successful Devon and Cornwall candidates, congratulations! You may find my recent blog on supervising and managing police investigations helpful CPD. Plus my police leadership podcast interview with Chief Constable Lee Freeman KPM will be interesting food for thought as you begin in post; it’s inspirational stuff! Heads down now for 12 months ahead of securing your substantive promotion and good luck along the way.

Wherever you are on your promotion journey, I wish you the very best. If you are not amongst these officers and aspire to promotion in the shires or other force, you’ll find extensive help and support with effective preparation across my website.

Kind Regards, Steve

Want to go further right now? Hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, and/or my Police Promotion Masterclass. You can also contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a collection of videoseGuides, and podcast.

Solid examples Sergeant promotion
Solid examples of what works for Sergeants