Barry Malkin has personally conducted over seventy assessment center feedback, coaching, and teaching sessions with candidates who have competed in the promotional process for sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. He shares his successful training style along with a descriptive background of the Assessment Center; the training and selection process of the Assessors; and the critical concepts for success during the process. Candidates will learn specifically:
• How Assessors calculate candidate ratings
• Why extra points make such a difference
• How scenarios are prepared
• Why issues, actions, and follow-up actions are so important
Malkin's easy-to-apply tips effectively guide candidates through a process that can often be intimidating and nerve-wracking, ultimately providing insight and a clear understanding into how candidates can make a positive impact on their entire police career.
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About the Author
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The Police Assessment Center: Important Keys for SuccessWhat You Need to Know and May Not Have Been Told
By BARRY T. MALKIN
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Barry T. Malkin
All right reserved.
Chapter OneABOUT THE AUTHOR
I am a retired District of Columbia Metropolitan Police officer. I served on the force for thirty-three years and seven months. Of that time, I spent nine years in uniform patrol, eleven and a half as a uniform patrol sergeant, three years as a lieutenant both in patrol and as an equal employment opportunity specialist, eight years as a patrol captain and the final two and a half years at the Metropolitan Police Training Academy, first as the deputy director and later as acting director of the Testing and Standards Branch.
My other experience includes working briefly for the New Jersey Department of Personnel as a test development specialist for the rank of sergeant, as well as serving as an assessor in Arlington, Virginia, for the rank of lieutenant; in New Orleans, Louisiana, for the rank of lieutenant; in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the rank of major; and in my department for the ranks of sergeant and detective grade one.
In 2001, I participated in the International Association of Chiefs of Police four-day Conference on Assessment Centers in St. Petersburg, Florida. In 2002, I personally conducted the training for outside-the-department lieutenants and captains whowould later be the assessors for Washington, DC's Metropolitan Police Department's 2002 Promotional Process Assessment Center for sergeant, lieutenant and captain.
In 2003 and 2004, I was assigned the responsibility of creating my department's very first centralized Master Patrol Officer Selection Process. This included preparing the written and oral exercise scenarios, the assessor and item-writer training and the candidate orientation. I completed the process in May 2004. On Thursday, June 23, 2004, I turned in my gun and badge. On Friday, my last day at work, I arrived at the usual 0630 hours, and stayed a bit later than 1500, saying goodbye to and thanking my co-workers at the Training Academy.
The very next morning, Saturday, I signed the papers for my childhood dream, a bay-front condominium in Ocean City, Maryland. Captain Willie Smith, a co-worker friend of mine and a tremendous help to me during the 2002 promotional process, and Sheila Beaman, my invaluable management analyst who always had my back, had driven up to be with me. My wonderful girlfriend, Paula, was there too. I was now retired, and there would never be any more check-in or check-out times at cheap motels. How lucky was I!
Chapter TwoWHY I HAD TO WRITE THIS BOOK
Law enforcement is a truly wonderful career. I got into it on a fluke, and may or may not go into that in another book. However, I loved being a police officer most of the time, though there were times that were difficult, trying and so depressing that I came pretty close to getting out of Dodge. For the most part, though, police officers are able to experience life in a way that most people would never be able to do, or even imagine.
I have always taken great pride in doing things that help people. My superiors saw me as being a little different-as more than a "lock 'em up" cop. I went further than was required of me and employed discretion when I could. I guess some liked that. Because of this, early in my career I had the wonderful fortune of acquiring rabbis. In law enforcement, "rabbi" is a term of endearment for someone who looks out for and guides you. This absolutely does not mean that person will cover up improprieties or misconduct. In my career, especially, this was not true. Like most officers, I did do some things wrong and on one occasion conducted myself in a way that was perceived by some as wrong. For these minor infractions and perceived misconduct, not only could my rabbis not help me, but different police officials initially told me to resign. My rabbis, however, were there on each occasion to take me aside and talk to me. These were true mentors and coaches, through critical times, simply trying to make me a better police officer.
Though I feel that the expression "to give something back" is mostly overused and insincerely meant, that's what I want to do. I wrote this book to help those police officers who really love the job and want to better the profession to get promoted.
Some of the concepts and methods discussed will be very controversial. Some may make little sense at all. I know that, because I have coached and mentored many past and present police officials. All objected to or at least questioned some of the fundamental suppositions and theories that I brought to the table.
I cannot promise you that reading this book will get you promoted. I can tell you that the vast majority of the officers who have attended my private coaching/teaching sessions have been promoted during the applicable promotional time span. I will promise you one thing, though. When I do present something that I know will make you shake your head sideways, not up and down, I will give you a detailed explanation. Then you are on your own.
Finally, in the course of personally conducting seventy-six assessment center process feedback/coaching/teaching sessions with candidates who competed in the 2002 promotional process for sergeant, lieutenant and captain, I adopted the training style you will find in this book. It may at times be unfriendly, tough and most assuredly not politically correct. Though this doesn't reflect my true personality, my style will be that way at times to stress a point It will be that way because the method works. If you follow most of what I say, you will greatly improve your chances of doing well and might even blow your assessors away come assessment time. Good luck!
Chapter ThreeTHE ASSESSMENT CENTER-DEFINITION, PURPOSE AND HISTORY
An assessment center is a place where you are judged by a group or groups of individuals called assessors, who rate how well you would perform the position you are competing for. The exercises through which you demonstrate your knowledge, skills and abilities-usually referred to as KSA's-may include role-playing, oral and/or written responses to oral and/or written questions, panel interviews, question-and-answer sessions, brainstorming sessions, leadership sessions and more. Though all of the above exercises can be conducted at an assessment center, an assessment usually consists of one or two practical activities and written/administrative exercises.
The assessment is intended to have you demonstrate practical knowledge and skills, but it is just one part of the promotional process, which also usually includes a separate question-and-answer booklet or written examination. For example, in almost all state and large municipal departments, the promotional process for corporals, sergeants, lieutenants and sometimes many higher ranks includes some type of competition among candidates. This competition will usually require each candidate to take a written examination, then shortly afterwards compete in an oral and/or written practical or field exercise. (For the remainder of this book, the term field exercise will refer to any assessment center testing exercise other than written/ computer or administrative testing.) After being graded or scored on both the written test and the field exercise or exercises, the candidate will receive a final overall score that incorporates the weighting of each exercise.
Weighting simply means the mathematical importance your particular police department gives each exercise. For example, let's say both the written test and the assessment center exercise are worth 50 percent. There is a field of ten candidates. The best candidate gets 47 points on the written test and 40 points on the field exercise. The worst candidate gets 30 points on the written test and 20 points on the field exercise. In most departments, the candidates will then be placed on a promotional register in descending order, from the candidate who scored 87 to the candidate who scored 50. Then, let's say there are three position vacancies. Again usually, but not always, the candidates who had the top three scores will be promoted first.
Though it is of no conceptual importance to this book, I want to mention something briefly. A few departments promote from a promotional register using a process called the banding method. This gives the chiefs of police and the higher-ups they answer to more leeway in the promotional process. For example, let's say a particular department's band is five. That means that any of the candidates who scored in the top five can be promoted. If there are three vacancies, the chief of police, if he or she wishes, can promote the candidates who scored third, fourth and fifth, completely passing over the candidates who scored first and second. There are also a few departments in which the chief can promote anyone on the register at his or her discretion, no matter that candidate's relative position. My opinion is that both of these methods are extremely unfair, with the latter being more blatantly unfair than the other. At the very least, the practices encourage cronyism.
The way that candidates are scored or graded varies greatly among and sometimes even within departments. In general, though, a team of assessors, usually only two or three, will score your performance on one or more exercises. The same assessors might score every exercise, or there may be completely different assessors scoring you for each exercise.
When you complete each exercise, the assessors will score you on many different criteria. Most departments require that the assessors come to an agreement about how well you performed, referred to as a consensus. For example, if you have two assessors, and one assessor scores you a 4 and the other assessor a 3 on one characteristic, on a scale of 1 to 10, they reach a consensus and give you a 3, 3.5, 4, or even a 10 for the exercise. (Don't worry about characteristics/dimensions and consensus now; I will go into detail later in the book.)
I will not attempt to get into the content or construct validity of these promotional processes; I'll leave that to greater scholars than me. Suffice it to say that if a precise benchmark study were done comparing the tens of thousands of police departments in this country, it would find that very few conduct their processes exactly alike. For instance, for promotion to sergeant, one department may weight the written exam as being worth 70 percent and the field exercise 30 percent. For promotion to lieutenant, that same department could weight the written exam at 40 percent and the field exercise 60 percent. The rationale might be that knowledge of the state or municipal code of laws and public safety and traffic regulations is much more important at the rank of sergeant-who is a trainer and on-site supervisor-than at the rank of lieutenant. Conversely, lieutenants need to know how to handle practical field situations as on-site commanders and managers, and if they don't know a particular law or regulation, they can always look it up in the office or ask a sergeant, corporal or master patrol officer on the scene.
There are many different opinions on assessment centers. I have never seen two police departments with even nearly identical processes. However, I will say that of the many dozens of processes that I have either studied or participated in, most were fair and competently measured a candidate's suitability for promotion. * * *
This section of the chapter will be the most boring for most of you. It definitely is for me to write. It is important though, so I ask that you plod through it, maybe taking more than one sitting to do so. Why? It provides the basis for why I'm going to tell you many of the crazy and not-so-crazy things that I want you to do.
Assessment centers have been used in private industry in this country since the early 1900s. They have not, however, been used in police departments until relatively recently, the mid- to late-1970s. Here's why.
Since before the turn of the century, police departments throughout the United States largely relied on a paper examination as the main instrument for determining whether a candidate would be promoted. This examination would contain one or more type of question: true/ false, multiple choice or essay.
While many departments used the written test exclusively, many also added a suitability- or potential-for-promotion rating to the mix. This rating was generally given to the candidate by his or her immediate supervisor in conjunction with approval by other members of the chain of command. Depending on the mathematical weighting (relative importance), the two scores would be compiled statistically, and the candidate would receive a final score or rating. A register would then be compiled that listed the candidate with the highest score at the top and the candidate with the lowest at the bottom. As vacancies for positions or grades became available, the candidates would be promoted from the list in the exact order that they were ranked. So, for example, let's say a department had five vacancies for sergeant. There were twenty candidates, who were ranked from 1 to 20, with 1 being the highest. Only those candidates numbered 1 through 5 would be promoted.
The serious flaw with this promotional process was with the suitability-for-promotion rating. First of all, the rating could be given arbitrarily and subjectively. In most departments, the rating did not require any written justification. Second, especially in small departments, it was at the very least rumored that the top ratings were given to only the "good old boys." Third, the suitability ratings in most departments were assigned after the written examination results were posted or announced. Thus, if a candidate scored highly on the written test, and for whatever reason the candidate's supervisors did not want him promoted, all they had to do to knock him to the bottom of the list was to give that candidate a low suitability rating.
Conversely, if a candidate did not do well on the written exam, a high suitability rating for a good old boy would at least put the candidate in contention, if not at or near the top of the list. This is not to say that a candidate's poor performance on a written test automatically meant he didn't deserve a high suitability rating. The same applies conversely: just because a candidate did well on a written exam does not mean that he or she should get a high suitability rating from supervisors. It's just that in biased hands, the suitability rating was an effective way to manipulate the promotional register.
In the mid-1970s, many of the larger police departments-especially the rank-and-file officers within those departments, generally privates, corporals, detectives and first-line supervisors-chose to have unions or bargaining agents represent them, especially for pay negotiations. The main reason was that rank-and-file officers (and occasionally low-, middle- and upper-level managers) had tried for years to negotiate pay raises so that their salaries, which were notoriously low for the risks they faced every day, were at least commensurate to those of other public servants and government workers. In most cases, city, state and county police departments had virtually no problems in hiring qualified candidates; therefore also in most cases, the political leaders of these jurisdictions, to save money, chose not to raise the salaries significantly.
The heads or police chiefs of their departments hardly ever came out publicly in favor of raises, either. Why should they? There was nothing in it for them. Not only that, it was a lose-lose situation. All police chiefs were, and still are, political appointees. Why would a police chief, especially one without the time or tenure to be able to retire, risk losing a well-paying and prestigious job, as well as a future pension, to publicly support a cause that wasn't going to happen? I definitely would not have, and I personally don't know of any police chiefs who did.
There were, of course, other issues the unions or bargaining agents brought to the negotiating table. Tours of duty, seniority and performance regarding assignments and days off, working conditions, outside employment and many other on- and off-duty matters became increasing concerns. Even though the missions of every department are technically worded differently, they are all basically the same. Every mission involves or should involve arresting criminals, preventing criminal acts and civil violations and reducing the public's fear of crime. Similarly, when it came to the working and pay issues that almost all departments wanted negotiated and improved, most issues were basically the same from department to department. Most officers wanted better working conditions, more leniency and flexibility in performing off-duty employment, fairer ways of designating assignments and assigning days off-and, of course, the elimination of the good-old-boy system in the promotional process.
Excerpted from The Police Assessment Center: Important Keys for Success by BARRY T. MALKIN Copyright © 2009 by Barry T. Malkin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Contents1. About the Author....................1
2. Why I Had to Write This Book....................3
3. The Assessment Center-Definition, Purpose and History....................7
4. Training and Selection of the Assessors....................25
5. Why the Extra Point Makes Such a Difference....................35
6. Critical Concept Number One: Dimensions or Characteristics....................41
7. Critical Concept Number Two: Issues, Actions and Follow-Up Actions....................47
8. The Relevance of Delegation....................67
9. Simple Keys to Assessment Center Success....................85