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Confidence and Leadership: Preparing for the Captain's Oral Board

Assistant Chief Bill Reilly | PoliceLink

Knowledge of the role of the police captain in your agency:

In many agencies, captains are responsible for the deployment of resources.  Captain candidates should show an understanding of the department’s budgeting process, grievance process, discipline & training processes, as well as the foundations of leadership.  It is not enough to just talk about the type of leader that you will be as a captain, you should go further and acknowledge the controls that impact the way that you will lead, such as a limited budget or a collective bargaining agreement, and demonstrate how to remain effective in that environment.

In preparing for the above knowledge components, three strategies would be:

• Review your agency’s mission statement and reduce it to bulleted “talking points”
• Take inventory of the most pressing needs and concerns within your jurisdiction
• Use the captain’s job description as a punch list for items you will be prepared to address, especially in the area of budgeting and resource deployment


Oral boards allow for the integration of knowledge with application.  That is where your articulation of the leadership strategies you will use to advance the agency’s mission comes in.   Despite the reality of some of the restrictions outlined above, the bottom line is that the captain candidates who can best state how they will navigate their agency environment toward the fulfillment of the department’s mission should be receiving the top scores. 

To do that, you should be clear on three points:

• The overarching expectation that you will hold for the personnel under your command so that they are contributing to the success of the agency
• The positive influence methods (with consideration for the restrictions identified above) that will motivate your personnel toward that expectation without negatively impacting morale
• The methods of assessment that you will apply to determine if expectations are being met and the actions you will take when they are, as well as when they are not

Crime Reduction Best Practices

There are many strategies that could be considered “best practices.”  This article will only focus on three: Community-Oriented Policing, CompStat, and Problem-Oriented Policing.

Community-Oriented Policing

Although it is being included here as a “best practice”, C.O.P. is actually an organizational philosophy with two major tenets: partnerships and problem solving.  Partnerships should be seen as more than just police and community.  Rather, partnerships should be focused on as many stakeholders as possible.  For a captain candidate to tell an oral board panel that he or she “will meet with the leaders of corporations and institutions in their jurisdiction to set the foundation for a cooperative working relationship that focuses on enhancing quality of life, public safety, and stakeholder concerns” shows that the captain candidate’s initiative goes beyond working with just residents and that he or she will demonstrate down the chain of command the behaviors that are expected.  With regards to problem solving, a strong candidate response assures the panel that the S.A.R.A. (Scanning, Analyzing, Responding, Assessing) problem solving model will be reinforced through training with active monitoring of its application so that successes can be tracked and replicated.


While many in law enforcement have argued that CompStat has unattractive components, it is hard to argue with its foundational elements or with the crime reduction that many agencies attribute to this model.  CompStat is more than a simple focus on numbers at a command staff meeting.  Yes, numbers and meetings are part of it, but the focus is on crime.  And as a captain candidate in front of an oral panel you have the opportunity to optimistically talk about how you will impact crime through your efforts.  If you are critical of the CompStat model, you can choose to not address it or you can indicate how you would safeguard against your concerns when applying that model. If you do choose to cite the CompStat model, be sure to talk about each of the four main elements and how you will specifically apply them.   They are:

• Accurate and Timely Intelligence
• Rapid Deployment
• Effective Tactics
• Relentless Follow-up and Assessment

Next Page: Do You Know Your Problem-Oriented Policing? >>>

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