Building Strong Police Promotion Evidence from Experience (Pt 2)

Sergeant Inspector badges

UK police officers can sometimes draw a blank when contemplating and compiling their evidence for police promotion to Sergeant, Inspector and beyond.

In Part 1 of this blog on preparing application and/or interview responses, I outlined the importance of structure, pitching examples to the rank you are applying for, and gave examples of themes where you may have relevant experiences. Here I will provide an example of what good looks like and why, aligned to the CVF competency, ‘We Analyse Critically’. This is just one of many tangible examples from my ‘What Works: Promotion Evidence & Examples’ guide for the rank of Sergeant.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

So, What Does Good Promotion Evidence Look Like?

PAR, STAR and SOAR police promotion structure

“Omne, Trium, Perfectum.” – Latin phrase (Everything that comes in threes is perfect)

advocate the importance of structure in other blogs and my police promotion toolkits. The example provided below uses a simple ‘Problem, Action, Result’ (PAR) structure. This is particularly useful for answering rear-facing questions on application forms. Other structures for laying out evidence also exist, such as ‘SOAR’ (Situation, Objective, Action, Result), which has been advised for Met Police promotion candidates. Realise that most of the important ‘scoring’ content should feature under ‘actions’, i.e. briefly what you did, detailing how you did it and why.

The following is a solid example of what good evidence might look like in a constable to sergeant police promotion application form with very restricted word counts (there’s nearly 50 more such model examples in my premium Sergeant toolkit). This ‘story’ could also form the basis of a conversational response in the ‘Evidence’ section of my bespoke, tried and tested ‘ENAMEL’ mnemonic for answering promotion interview questions. You may remember I advised in part 1 that writing your evidence down is always a good starting point, regardless of whether your promotion process involves an application booklet. This is because it makes your examples tangible. You can add, alter, amend or adapt them to improve them, rather than an abstract story in your head that you have to keep rethinking.

Potential prompt or question: “Please give your best example of analysing critically to inform a decision you made.”

Example: CVF Competency ‘We Analyse Critically’ (250 words)

Problem: As A/Sergeant, I led the response to a violent incident. Four suspects were forcing entry to a prolific criminal’s home, armed with weapons. 

Actions: Using the NDM, I verified information enroute to the scene to identify risk(s), arriving first. Offenders had made off. I assessed witness information to gain an accurate understanding of the situation, identifying two scenes within converted multi-occupancy premises. My objectives were to protect life, preserve evidence, and safely arrest suspects. I established an RV point considering safety of responding officers. I dynamically briefed officers upon arrival (using IIMARCHD) to ensure professional communication/proportionate response. I supervised initial fast track actions including house-to-house, key witness statements, and CCTV. I requested a CSI to secure forensic material. Considering force policy, I spoke with intelligence officers to urgently verify crime/community intelligence and I consulted officers with good knowledge of their patch, successfully identifying potential suspects. Aware late turn was starting, I used my professional judgement in weighing open incidents requiring resourcing, against the risk of attrition of evidence. Consequently, I decided to retain my section on duty to effect arrests. I sought overtime authorisation providing a considered rationale, before dynamically briefing arrest teams. 

Result: Four suspects were arrested. I delivered a comprehensive handover to detectives ensuring continuity. On reviewing the incident with my team, I passed on praise/recognition received from the detective inspector for high standards of file handover aligned to authorised professional practice. Three men were convicted of aggravated burglary, one for GBH with intent.

Example Sergeant application

Some insights and tips: What makes the above example ‘good’?

Mag glass police promotion

“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.”  – Thich Nhat Hanh

As with all structures, ‘PAR’ helps to communicate ‘the story’ in a clear format…

  • Problem: This is kept succinct as it should be. Don’t waste valuable word limits or verbal response time on overly communicating the problem/challenge and situation you faced. Keep it brief, it’s important to set the context and to move on swiftly. If you were Acting or Temporary Sergeant, then don’t miss the opportunity to say so, as it clearly highlights that this evidence was gained at the rank and level aspired to.
  • Actions: It is clear what this candidate did. ‘Actions’ is the main section and features in any of the various structures you may choose to set out your evidence. Actions is where you explain exactly what you did, how you did it and why (think values). A classic mistake that often surfaces here, certainly in weaker applications is overuse of the word “we” e.g., ‘we attended…’, ‘we decided…’, ‘we considered…’ or ‘we engaged…’. Using ‘we’ dilutes or disguises evidence of your actions. Look how often ‘I’ is used in the actions for this violent incident example above. Assessors and promotion panels want to read about, see and to listen to what you did and the actions you took, since they will be scoring you. This can take some thinking about while you are pulling together your examples because it’s not natural to ‘blow your own trumpet’. Suffice to say that it’s something I pick up when reviewing draft applications and it appears often! This example is also clearly aligned to the descriptors of the competency being assessed. It describes in plain English the actions taken, rather than playing competency ‘buzzword bingo’.
  • Result: Having a clear outcome is critical to ensuring that any evidence you offer articulates a complete example. This element should emphasise that your leadership actions achieved something of value e.g., such as alleviated the situation, improved performance, or mitigated risk. If you were recognised for your efforts e.g., with a commendation mention it. The result you achieved could be achieving the objective you set out to achieve, implementing change/s, or improving community relations. Setting, communicating, and reinforcing standards relating to investigation, prosecution and securing convictions (as in the example above) might be the result.

Decision-making is an essential competency and personal quality assessed for promotion from Constable right through to Chief Constable. It’s a critical leadership skill. No surprise then to find it arising like this in written applications, on police promotion boards and/or other selection processes. Decision making can feature within different CVF competencies, e.g. ‘We Take Ownership’ or as with the above example ‘We Are Analytical’. It may also be assessed more than once during promotion selection tests or exercises, such as a Situational Judgement Test.

You may find the following video on decision-making from my free YouTube channel helpful (there’s many more there plus in-depth podcasts on police promotion and leadership)…

So, what’s the problem? Cops make decisions and demonstrate these competencies every day. Well, the ‘surprise’ is that when it comes to having to write (or speak) about how you decided, or what was difficultchallenging, or complex about it, sometimes the question gets forgotten or overlooked. One of the biggest aspects of feedback relating to promotion board performance is: “The candidate didn’t answer the question”.

As I alluded to earlier, there’s a tremendous value and benefit to be had in writing down supporting examples that you may have as part of preparing effectively for a promotion process. Lots of aspiring promotion candidates simply don’t do this. This is especially true where your own force police promotion process doesn’t require a written application. However, it’s a great opportunity to understand how your evidence aligns to the competencies, descriptors or values you will be assessed against. It’s why I encourage all candidates to make their evidence ‘tangible’. If it isn’t written down it doesn’t ‘exist’ – other than in your head! As such, it is much harder to add value, rearrange, or to construct meaningful examples. The act of writing it down helps to cement the ‘story’ in your memory banks.

Writing your evidence out, as with the example cited above, can help ensure that your operational experiences are structured in a way that makes it easier for you and assessors to read and ascertain what you did, alongside the outcome/s you achieved. Doing this ahead of opportunity effectively serves you twice because your final written drafts are helpful to think through and practice your verbal responses to potential interview questions.

An alternative structure you may wish to consider for structuring responses to police promotion board interview questions is my bespoke ‘ENAMEL’ modelThis model is detailed in the digital promotion toolkits. It’s one that successful police promotion candidates frequently report worked well as an aid to support thinking and for managing conversational responses.

I hope you found this blog helpful and thought-provoking. I enjoy sharing free guidance and support; for more free info on your police promotion journey, here’s more free blog content, regular YouTube videos, and a my growing police promotion and leadership podcast. For those seeking to take a quantum leap forward and get ahead of the curve, my in-depth Rank Success digital toolkits and 4+ hour HD Video Masterclass provide example evidence, explain the CVF, includes all stages of the promotion process, and much more! Use code POLICEHOUR20 at checkout to save 20% on any Rank Success digital promotion toolkits or bundles.

Until my next blog here, I wish you all the best for success.

Kind Regards, Steve

Police promotion UK