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Author Topic: aging patrol cops  (Read 1882 times)

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aging patrol cops
« on: May 17, 2007, 09:51:14 PM »

I've put off asking this for a while, cuz I don't want it to sound, uh, well, uh...uh...
Anyway, some f the patrol cops around here are older than I would expect. I know there are only so many openings for detectives and captains, and I know that at least some of these guys stay in patrol because they like it. But is failure to advance a negative? How is it seen and understood by cops themselves?
Do many not advance due to lack of motivation, intelligence, ability, or something else? Is there not automatic advancement to a certain point? Does the pay increase with the numbers of years, even if the rank does not?
How does one move from patrol to whatever else they might do?


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Re: aging patrol cops
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2007, 11:04:38 PM »


Like everything else in American law enforcement, it all depends.

Here's an example.  Generally you think of the chief of a major metropolitan department as working his way through the ranks, patrolman, sergeant, lieutenant, etc., 'til he's up in the top tier when an opening occurs for the number one spot.

Tom Cahill, the longest-serving chief in the San Francisco Police, was promoted from "inspector."  Now in SFPD, "inspector" is just what most departments call a "detective."  In fact, the detective branch of the SFPD is called the "Bureau of Inspectors." 

Further, at the time Cahill was working SFPD's homicide detail, "inspector" was strictly an appointive position.  That's since changed, but back in Cahill's day, a chief could promote a patrolman to inspector one day, and demote him the next.  In other words, Cahill's permanent civil service rank was patrolman.

So, for practical purposes, when he was made chief, and he was probably SPFD's greatest chief, he was only a patrolman and he was getting jumped over dozens of officers who had carefully taken and passed all those civil service promotion exams.

My uncle was a patrolman in SFPD his whole career.  He liked being a beat cop.  He was well-educated, particular for that particular era in law enforcement.  In fact, he had a couple of years of law school completed, though he never graduated.  Point is, he was intelligent enough to take the tests and pass them if he chose to.  He just didn't choose to.

William Parker, LAPD's greatest chief, or at least its most famous chief, did follow the more standard career path, taking promotional exams and slowly working his way up the ladder until he was the Deputy Chief in charge of the Patrol Bureau.  When the Chief's position opened up, he was eligible to take that exam (LAPD is one of the few departments that gives a civil service exam to chief applicants).  It came down to him and his fellow deputy chief, Thad Brown of the Detective Bureau.

If an officer spends his whole career in a small department, he might move up fast as people above him leave for greener pastures, or he might stay in one position if there's no movement above him.  If he's got ties to the community, kids in school, a mortgage mostly paid off on a house he and his wife both like, he might be reluctant to look for greener pastures, too.

It depends on so many things.  The attitude of the individual cop.  The department s/he works for.  The personal circumstances of that cop.  The community the department serves.  And often, just luck.

There's no one answer to your question.


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Re: aging patrol cops
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2007, 11:51:05 PM »

Thanks, Jim.


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Re: aging patrol cops
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2007, 12:46:11 AM »

In my little department, 40 officers, it was similar to what Jim described. Patrolmen had to have the equivalent hrs equal to at least an associates degree. Didn't matter what, but law enforcement was favored. Most began and ended their careers as officers.

I retired a sgt and had no desire to go any higher because Lieutenant and up were appointed positions. The nicest way I can think to say it is, to advance beyond Sgt, when an opening came up, it helped to have a large amount of brown on your nose to have a chance. Small department politics often work that way.

You don't see many elderly cops in New Mexico since all departments are covered under the Public Employee Retirement Assoc which allows police and fire to leave at 20 yrs service, and the huge majority do. So, most cops and firemen are out the door with full retirement as early as 41 yrs old - young enough to start a whole other career.

Lance Charnes

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Re: aging patrol cops
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2007, 08:21:17 AM »

My father was 22-1/2 years in the Alameda County Sheriff's Department and retired as a deputy. Unlike a lot of line cops, he hated patrol and preferred working courts or jail. He says he never tried to make sergeant because he didn't want the added administrative and supervisory duties. More rank would also make it harder for him to camp out in the main County Courthouse in Oakland (his favorite place to work). With overtime he was making at least as much as he would as a sergeant, so there wasn't any financial incentive.
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