I have found that this complaint is universal among police officers all over the country.  I have heard this PPP (Police Pet Peeve) from California to Chicago to Virginia.

How come in books, the best cops get promoted?

While it may be true in books that the best cops get promoted, its definitely not the rule in real life police departments. In the majority of departments, officers take extremely difficult written exams in order to promote to the next rank. For my lieutenant’s promotional exam, we had to study two large textbooks on police administration plus we had a lengthy handout we had to memorize.  Luckily for me, I’m good at studying and taking tests. But what about the stellar officer who simply cannot take tests?

One of the best detectives I know, bar none, had to take the detectives test three times before she finally scored high enough to make the detectives list. Her problem? Dyslexia.  Another excellent patrol officer I know took the sergeant’s test four times and never scored high enough to make the list. He just never learned how to take tests.

Now let’s look at the other side.  I can’t count how many times an officer with absolutely no common sense or people skills got promoted simply because they were good at taking tests.  They were known by the rank and file for being a so so officer, and yet now the rank and file have to answer to the dufus simply because he or she was a good test taker.

As a writer, use this phenomenon to create interesting characters or commander to officer interactions.  You’d be amazed at how many scenarios something like this will give you if you just let your imagination fly.


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