Chicago Police Department:

Improving the Promotional Process






A Graduate Research Project

Presented to

The College of Graduate and Professional Studies

Department of Criminal Justice

Indiana State University





In Partial Fulfillment

Of the Requirements for the Degree

Master of Science






Kenvar J. Pujoe

December 2011


Promotion plays an important role in any organization. Key areas influence employee performance and motivation. As such, it remains a sensitive subject amongst employees. An organization with good policies on promotion enhances loyalty amongst its employees and motivates them to work harder. Ultimately, this leads to better production in the organization. On the other hand, lack of or poor policies on promotion demotivate workers leading to high turnover rate and low productivity within the organization.

This research project seeks to analyze the promotional system of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The institution promotes staff based on merit and seniority or ranks of employees. Although sufficient, this system is characterized by numerous weaknesses and has received much criticism from internal and external circles. At CPD, the merit and rank or seniority promotional system is not implemented effectively. This is because the best candidates for promotion and brightest of staff are not always assured of being promoted through this system. This research seeks to make an analysis of the situation and draw out the weaknesses in the system. This research will also identify more attractive alternative methods of promoting staff so that Chicago Police Department can offer better promotion opportunities to their best employees.

The research proposal will attempt to answer these four questions: what would be the best alternatives to the current promotional systems at Chicago Police Department? How has the seniority and merit system of promotion being practiced at Chicago Police Department impacted on the performance of police officers? What are some of the merits and demerits of this promotional system as experienced at Chicago Police Department? How effective has this seniority and merit system of promotion been in Chicago Police Department?

Table of Contents

Abstract 2

Table of Contents. 3

Introduction. 4

Background of the Study. 5

Significance of the Study. 8

Literature Review.. 9

Problem Statement 20

Research Questions. 21

Hypothesis. 21

Research Methodology. 22

Data Collection. 22

Target Population. 23

Sampled Population. 23

Questionnaires and Interviews. 24

Data Analysis. 25

Limitations and Assumptions. 26

Definition of Terms. 27

References. 28



            One of the major critical issues under the HR docket is the concept of promotion of employees at the work place. A good policy framework to guide the HR department on promotion processes is a big motivator to the staff and actually makes them more productive. It is no wonder that organizations with proper strategies and policies for promotion activities and processes have more staff that are productive and are more successful. Conversely, organizations without policies on promotion and those with half-baked policies characterized by political influence, bias and favoritism end up demoralizing employees tend to have high turnover rates, demoralized employees, and these affects the overall performance and production rates of the company (Sanchez, 2008).

            Evidence suggests that the organizations that plan well for the promotion of their employees and put in place effective policies regarding the same tend to get better financial returns. Once employees have gained a certain amount of experience, they become valuable assets to their employer because of the coveted skills. They potentially have more value to most competitors within the industry that require the skills regarded as highly marketable. For such employees, any signs of mistreatment or unappreciation from their employer would result in them either being demotivated and becoming lax in their duties or seeking  greener pastures in other organizations. Either way, the organization would lose the benefits of these coveted skills. It is from this perspective that organizations must work to ensure that all the promotional strategies and policies are geared towards appreciating the best employees and retain the best employees for increased productivity within the organization. According to Hanson (2008), an organization whose promotional strategies and policies are grounded in political influence, biasness, discrimination and favoritism is likely to face adverse effects on production and even end up losing skillful and talented human capital.


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            The Chicago Police Department has been debating for years among its staff on how to change for the better the process of promotion of employees. Currently one of the biggest concerns is how to change the current promotional process that is based on ranks and seniority.

            Law enforcement career offers a reasonable amount of occupational stability to the officers at Chicago Police Department. This allows them to choose whether they want to remain in the same rank, they started at throughout their career or they want to seek promotion and advance up the career ladder. Promotion is normally seen as a viable option for the officers who are unhappy with their current pay rates, nature of their jobs and states of supervision. A bid to fulfill personal career goals also pushes some officers to seek promotion. Surprisingly, several qualified police officers who choose to pass up promotion processes disregard it totally due to personal diversified reasons. Some do this because they are satisfied with their current positions and others are complacent about performance.



Background of the Study

            Chicago Police Department is the law enforcer serving the city of Chicago, Illinois. This is located to the northeast corner of the state. Chicago also goes by the name “The Windy City” and is the largest of all cities in the Midwest. At the United States per capita level, it is the third largest after New York and Los Angeles.  Having been incorporated in 1833, this city has grown tremendously to become a major industrial hub. It also has one of the busiest airports in the world, the O’Hare International, which is located along the shores of Lake Michigan. At 234 square miles and with an estimated 2.7 million populace, Chicago is home to the McCormick Place, Navy Pier and Willis Sears Tower that is rated as the tallest building in the US. It also hosts myriad of landmark hotels, high-rise residences and businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2010), Chicago has several different types of constructions for residents that are well distributed across the city and industrial heavy-duty traffic.

            As a municipal department, the Chicago Police Department provides services related to emergency and non-emergency response.  The CPD currently operates on a budget of $1.3 billion dollars annually and employs approximately 15,250 civilian and sworn personnel. There are 25 districts spread out in Chicago and the city’s public safety department responds to approximately 5.4 million service calls every year. For convenient operations, the CPD is split into six bureaus with each bureau having its own Chief Bureau. These bureaus include Unit 1 Patrol, Unit 2 Investigative Services, Unit 3 Crime Strategies and Accountability, Unit 4 Internal Affairs, Unit 5 Administration Services and Unit 6 Strategic Development (Hickman & Reaves, 2006).               

            At the CPD, Bureau Chief Ernest T. Brown heads the Patrol Bureau and it operates in three shifts, first watch, second and third watches. The watch commander who must be at least at Lieutenant rank to head the watch heads every watch. These shifts are roughly made up of a captain, two lieutenants and three sergeants. These are assisted by approximately 60 police officers. A District Commander heads each of the 25 districts spread out through Chicago.

            Currently, the Chicago Police Department promotes its officers based on their seniority and whether or not they pass a civil service objective and multiple-choice exams. Within the group of officers that pass the civil exam are those that are chosen for promotion on merit grounds. For a police officer to be promoted to the level of a sergeant he must have served as a certified police officer for at least three years; one of which should have been at the Chicago Police Department team. For one to enter the ranks of a Lieutenant, he must have served as a sergeant for two years and have been a certified police officer for a minimum of five years. The Captain position promotion is eligible for certified police officers who have been in the service for a minimum of 7 years, three of which they served in the rank of a lieutenant.  According to Windy City (2010), officers at CPD who want to be promoted to any level above that of lieutenant are no longer required to sit for the civil service exams. Their promotion is based on an administrative choice.

            After candidates have completed their testing phases, they are given grades and the tests are ranked according to the seniority hierarchy. With time and availability of vacant positions, graded candidates from the most recent list of qualified applicants, are promoted. This is done beginning with the most senior staff and going downwards.  With this kind of system in place, it takes between five to seven years for the officers at Chicago Police Department to get their first promotion to the rank of sergeant. After that they have to wait for another seven to ten years before they can make the captain rank. This is therefore to say that an average officer at Chicago Police Department may have to work for approximately twenty years before being promoted to achieve the exempt rank status. To add to this discrepancy, the CPD has been operating on a hiring freeze between 2006 and 2010. It has therefore not offered any promotional exam from 2005. In the recent times, tech-savvy college graduates have made the bulk of job seekers within law enforcement agencies. These individuals have high expectations of proper remuneration, just rewards and recognition of their efforts. It is from this perspective that new recruits at CPD view the current system of promotion as mediocre. On the other hand, the older members still fight vehemently for the retention of this system (Windy City, 2010).

            All is not lost though because of the CPD Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7 (FOP#7), a staunch union for the CPD police officers. This union has kept fighting for the cause of the members and their rights. The important aspect of this is that the seniority system of promotion at Chicago Police Department is protected solely by union contract. Despite having been in place for years, the seniority system does not always guarantee that the best and most suitable candidates will be promoted. With the seniority systems, the first available candidates with minimum qualifications and standards are given priority over candidates with the highest qualifications and experience. Unfortunately, the CPD FOP#7 strongly favors the use of this system and it is the fully recognized member bargaining agent. This is because the body seeks to protect its membership. Seniority at CPD has been in use almost exclusively. It continues to influence decisions on promotion, shift assignment, stations and vacation picks for the employees.

            Most police officers will agree that their careers are quite fulfilling yet challenging. The fact remains that police officers nowadays have to deal with varying and complicated issues such as common crime, mental problems, traffic related incidents, animal incidents, violence and even well-being checks. Police officers therefore have to possess effective communication skills so as to relate with their co-workers and the public in their line of duty. It is thus necessary for these officers to undergo regular training on management, multi-faced emergency operations, safety, supervision and leadership. Competence and ability to perform is not always guaranteed by merit or seniority solely. In fact, it is necessary for the officers seeking promotion to prove that they possess the skills, attitudes and knowledge needed to fill these higher ranks. The seniority system of promotion being practiced at Chicago Police Department sends out a message of complacency such that “the maximum expectation is regarded as the minimum acceptable efforts”

Significance of the Study

            According to Marquis (2011) promotion as a motivator of employees is second to salary. In such a capitalistic world, nearly all employees in every company desire to be in influential and powerful positions with six figure plus salaries. It is the responsibility of each organization to design an effective system of promotion that appeals to employees and realizes objectives of promotion altogether. Nevertheless, many organizations continue to disregard this important aspect by maintaining promotional systems with numerous loopholes and thus attracting criticism from varied stakeholders and necessitating calls for change. The seniority and merit system of promotion being employed at the Chicago Police Department is one such system. This promotional system has denied promotional opportunities to the best and most qualified candidates within the police force. This study is necessary because it endeavors to highlight weak areas of the seniority and merit system of promotion  being practiced at the Chicago Police Department and analyze examples of alternative effective methods of promotion that are being employed in other organizations and police forces.

Literature Review

This literature review sought to scrutinize a range of published works of previous researches conducted on the topic of study in question, the promotional system of Chicago Police Department. In order to realize the objectives of the study, the review will include data from periodicals, journals, magazines, previously published thesis, dissertation and research projects as well articles, World Wide Web search engines, Indiana State University WEB LCVC system and any other relevant information from the intranet system of the Chicago Police Department.  Additionally, interviews have been conducted and survey activities carried out to assess various personnel views concerning support or opposition of the contemporary system of promotion at the Chicago Police Department.

The selection process for suitable candidates for promotion is very similar to that of selecting new employees into an organization (Agrawal, 1995). In today’s world the Principle of Peter, that posits people eventually find their own competence and incompetence levels, has been discarded and is no longer relevant to promotional policies. Although many organizations make the mistake of transferring a capable specialist to a fundamental managerial position, this should not be the case. Regrettably, every employee in nearly every organization desires to be in charge or be placed in the managerial position and if all these desires were fulfilled, there would be more supervisors than subjects in organizations. Even though everyone desires promotion, the fact is organizations cannot afford to promote everybody. There has to be a balance and some people will land the management positions and supervisory roles but others have to remain subjects to management. Overall, promotion as a subject tends to be sensitive, will always attract volatile debates and criticisms, and if not handled properly is likely to affect the overall performance of an organization.

When establishing policies on promotion, an organization must put into consideration certain factors. There are those key features that must be included in any promotional policy for an organization to succeed. Agrawal (1995) identifies such basic essential features as:

a.        A scientifically determined appraisal report for staff

b.      Specific procedures for selection of promotional candidates that are free from subjectivity

c.       Job-related examinations should be carried out to determine how well a candidate comprehends the tasks of the position

d.      The promotional policy should address the issue of training for successful candidates to enable them better fit their new roles (Agrawal, 1995)

e.       Positions which are not accompanied with increased remuneration upon promotion must be redefined to include unique features such as supervisory roles and job reclassifications

f.       All candidates for promotion should be subjected to interviews so as to ensure that they are given a fair hearing and evaluation.

            Gaines and Worall (2011) state that there exist several systems all over the world which diverse organizations could employ in promoting their employees. Some of the systems that these authors explore include seniority promotion system, written examination, discipline promotion system, educational and training points, performance appraisals and situational tests. Irrespective of all the above methods of determining promotion, the focus of this study remains promotion using the seniority system in different organizations and especially Chicago Police Department.

            Gaines and Worrall (2011) observe that the use of seniority for promotional purposes comes in two major ways.  Seniority can be used when there is a tie in qualifications of two candidates up for promotion or when there is a minimum seniority level to be filled. Furthermore, the authors state that amongst law enforcement personnel, “Common seniority requires one to have served for at least five years before competing for sergeant ranks while all the other levels require one to have served for one or two years so as to be considered for the next position or rank in line. This type of experience and on the job training is necessary in law enforcement jobs because it is what determines one’s capability” (p.316). seniority has more implications on the length of service and it does not necessarily mean that a candidate is better than the rest competing for the same rank. It simply implies that candidate has been in service for longer and as such is assumed more skilled and experienced, which in fact may not be the case.

            Unfortunately, police promotions based on seniority have been implemented from the advent of modern police era. (2011) states that it is reforms, professionalism and politics in the United States that always dictate careers of law enforcers.  Furthermore, research carried out by the author revealed that the officers who had political links, affiliations and favor were more likely to be promoted than those without. It is such biases and issues related to job conditions, inequality and unfairness as well as tight work schedules that led to the creation of a new contemporary workers’ union. 

The Webster Online Dictionary defines promotion as the “raising or state of being raised to a higher rank or position” (n.d. para.1). this is in line with the common promotional positions within Chicago Police Department ranks where police officers may be promoted from officer to sergeants and then from sergeants to lieutenant and then later on they become captains and exempt officers.  An agreement between the City of Chicago (2010) and the Fraternal Order of Police, Chicago Lodge #7, seniority is the continuous length of service offered by an officer from the last date of hire into the service. The Chicago Police Department views promotion by seniority system as offering promotion to candidates who have the longest job tenure because they are deemed to have longer experience and possess more knowledge having served for that long. This is according to obtainable data that further reveals that such candidates are more likely to be selected for promotion because they lasted long enough in their preceding positions. It is assumed that these candidates will perform well at the next level of rank. While other police departments have used seniority before in selecting candidates for promotion, many departments within the police force are facing out the system. In fact, many departments are now not using seniority as the sole basis for promotion. Use the agreement between the City of Chicago (2010) and the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No.7 also states that officers covered by the agreement will be subjected to promotion based on seniority and this system will also as the tie breaker for such officers (p.37). The CPD already has two seniority lists produced each year. The first is a seniority list based on survey carried out by the green bay fire department on seniority based promotion system. The second is the seniority alpha rank order. All candidates seeking promotion are required to score a minimum of 25% in the civil services written exam for the respective position to be eligible.  These tests comprise objective questions that have multiple choices and are mostly job related. After the candidates have completed the tests, seniority is used to determine their ranks. As such, the system at CPD depicts that candidates with the passing or minimum score are just as good as those with the highest scores. This is because the test is basically a pass-fail exam and if a candidate in senior ranking passes with minimum scores while a candidate with lower ranking scores the highest grade, the one at the senior level will be considered for promotion earlier.  The seniority list will continue to determine who is promoted until all the names in the list are cleared and this process is indefinite.

Aaron Marquis (2011) wrote an article that explores the merits and demerits of systems that based promotion and transfers of employees on seniority. Through this article, he explains that the policies that guide transfers and promotions within organizations had an effect on employee culture, internal productivity, employee motivation and turnover rates. This, he argued, was as a result of employee dependence and motivation being pegged to aspects such as career growth and development and remuneration increment. The author concludes that any organization that is keen on realizing its objectives and goals must set clear and fair policies regarding promotion so as to avoid employee dissatisfaction and ultimately low morale and productivity.

Employee promotion based on seniority ranks always affects the loyalty of employees to the organization (Marques, 2010). Since this type of promotion system is based on the years of service, many new recruits will tend to feel vulnerable and demoralized because they know they haven’t worked for the organization fro long enough and as such may be passed up for promotion. The new staffs are likely to feel inadequate and disheartened because their work cannot earn them recognition in terms of promotion and this may contribute to high turnover rates in an organization. The flip side of this coin is that some employees might perceive the promotions based on seniority as a form of secured employment and this may fuel their loyalty to the organization. For the old and more experienced staff, a seniority-based system of promotion that fails to recognize them by giving them promotion opportunities might have adverse effects on their loyalty and general production.

Furthermore, Marques (2010) notes that a seniority based system fails to take into consideration the experience and skills amassed by an individual employee at the workplace and this aspect commonly disregards the old staff’s most prized possession. This approach focused more on the duration that staff had served at certain levels within the organization and thus giving little thought to the highly skilled and competent personnel that had worked in the organization for shorter durations. When such officers realize that their accumulated skills and experience within the police department is neither recognized nor appreciated through promotion, they are likely to become lax or less productive and this affects the overall performance of the entire department. 

According to a study carried out by Carley (1996), the rules of promotion based on seniority are uncontroversial and transparent hence making the entire process self validating. Most labor unions support the seniority-based systems of promotion in a bid to protect their members. The basis of seniority is that employees having worked for longer durations within an organization tend to amass more skills and experience and as such are highly qualified and competent enough to perform in higher ranks. Kakar (1998) reveals that a research carried out by August Vollmer during the early 20th century was the first to suggest that the quality of police services could actually be improved by selecting officers from among the best people in the society. Increased maturity levels play advantageous roles in seniority-based systems for promotion. Political influence and favoritism have also been quoted as advantages people seeking promotion through the seniority based system.

The major weaknesses of seniority-based systems of promotion in most organizations have been named as political influence and favoritism and these have sown seeds of biasness and dissatisfaction in many of the organizations implementing the system (Balaji and Reddy, 1999). These authors also emphasize that promotions and growth opportunities are ranked second to increment of salaries in employee expectations. There are certain obvious reasons why employees often desire to be promoted within their organizations. First off, promotions are often linked to increment in salaries and this is the primary reason why human beings seek employment in the first place. Secondly, promotion comes along with higher status and authority in the workplace and this is a desire by most employees as it boosts their self-esteem. Promotions also bring in better fringe benefits and this motivates employees to be more productive at work.

Even though almost all employees desire to be promoted, opportunities for promotion tend to be few and as such, every organization needs to set in place strategies for promotional activities based on fair consideration. Sadly, this is not always the case and many systems of promotion do not offer equal opportunities to all personnel. Some systems, like seniority-based approach for promotional activities, have major shortcomings and tend to attract high resistance from some stakeholders involved in organizations practicing it. This system tends to favor people with connections to those in authority and Balaji and Reddy (1999) note that if a person has any affiliations whether direct or indirect with their employer or manager, they are likely to benefit from this system.  Relatives, friends and associates are given promotions based on biased favoritism regardless of their weaknesses and incompetence.

Advancement in promotional processes tend to have fewer vacancies available than the number of applicants competing for it and although seniority based promotion may provide simple solutions to this hurdle it also has its own disadvantages. In their study Lazear and Rosen (1981) attempt to highlight the major weaknesses of seniority system of promotion. The first loophole of this system is attributed to the fact that it fails view promotion as a motivating tool for the employees. Instead, its perception of promotion is solely as a job assignment. Secondly, promotion using this system fails to create alternative models of motivation. This system does not recognize that an employee’s productivity and motivation may vary during his tenure at an organization. For instance, organizational events will influence the employee over time and if he has been constantly passed up for promotion, he may become demoralized and unproductive with time. This way even when he has finally gained the tenure required and is promoted, a part of him will not be as productive as the system may purport. 

Moreover, seniority based system focuses on and rewards time as compared to performance. This fact tends to demoralize employees as their efforts are not recognized and this may leave them dissatisfied with the system.  A study by Vodicka (1994) reveals that the police forces may face higher turnover rates if the challenges the officers face decline and there is better job satisfaction. An article published in (2002) denotes that company policies have changed and seniority is no longer considered a major factor when it comes to promotion of staff. This article examined the changes that have occurred with time in promotional policies. It concluded that the seniority-based approach of promotion has become null and void with the cutthroat competition for high quality human resources amongst many industries. In fact, it was noted that many organizations are letting go of their senior employees in a bid to pave way for younger and more energetic employees who tend to be highly motivated and productive.

In fact, as much as seniority is considered significant in retention of old and highly experienced employees, companies are now opting for fresh blood found in the new and energetic employees who are perceived as highly productive. In addition to their high productivity, research has shown that the younger employees are more economical for most companies because they are dynamic and can be retained at lower salaries. Overseas organizations have now shifted promotional and salary increment policies to focus on merit rather than seniority. Decker and Huckabee (2002) carried out a study in Indianapolis Police Department that revealed that younger and college educated officers did not leave the force when their expectations were not met. Instead, they tend to grow complacent and accept that they would not be agents of change. Hence, dissatisfaction with promotional policies did not lead to high turnover rates but increased complacency.

Another major disadvantage of seniority promotional approach is the increased mediocrity in quality of services by the officers. Webster Online Learner’s Dictionary defines mediocrity as “the quality of something that is not very good”. It further adds that mediocrity can be “a person who does not have the special ability to do something well” (n.d., para.1). Mediocrity kills motivation and initiative. It is thus an enemy to excellence. Since seniority promotion systems are based on time, the average and poor performer can be promoted just as easily and fast as high performers. Any system of promotion must first seek the most qualified and best candidates before putting in any other factors into consideration.

Results based agreements have been introduced to certain markets in order to offer fresh challenges in the promotion systems. A study by Arie, Cachet and Ringeling (2008) was conducted to evaluate the effect of a new performance system for Netherlands police characterized as the New Public Management. The idea behind the new system was to run the police force more as a business enterprise. Pollitt and Bouckaert (2004) view this perspective as based on managerial practices and ideas. The Police Department in Netherlands introduced numbers games to evaluate performance of its officers in the field. This was done using a top-down management approach style. Results of the study were highly positive with rave reviews from mayors, police officers involved and stakeholders.

Education should also be considered in the promotional process of police officers as it increases departmental morale. According to the Webster dictionary, morale is defined as the sense of common goals with reference to a particular group. This study however views morale in the perspective of how an employee views or rates his or her own performance at work. A study conducted in the Metropolitan Dade County of the greater Miami area sought to determine the linkage between education and morale (Kakar, 1998). The study specifically focused on weighing the performance of patrol officers and their job satisfaction. It was revealed that the college educated police officers and women rated highly when it came to work related conditions and stress management. They were also found to accept and act positively on criticism. However, the same officers rated the poorest when it came to evaluation of attitudes towards their departments and jobs. These officers felt that their education was unappreciated by their employers. Studies have also revealed that it is more cost effective to retain qualified and satisfied staff as compared to hiring new recruits. It is therefore left to the police force to promote its educated officers in accordance with their qualifications.

A study by Phelan and Lin (2001) focused on the absolute and relative merit-based systems of promotion and their impacts on organizations that implemented them. Absolute systems provide for arbitrary cut-off level of current and projected needs and performance standards that need to be attained before one becomes eligible for promotion. On the other hand, relative merit based system ranks and promotes the candidates who perform highest irrespective of their performance at absolute levels. These authors mainly relied on simulation of computer programs for their study and they revealed that there were several factors that contributed towards effectiveness of a promotional system. 

Second City Cop (SCC) (2006) in its write-ups on departmental issues sought to find how one could obtain merit in the Chicago Police Department. Webster dictionary defines merit as “The qualities or actions that constitute the basis of one’s deserts; a praiseworthy quality; or a character or conduct deserving reward, honor, or esteem” (n.d., para. 1). Attainment of merit as organizations view achieving honor and SCC found that there were no policies or guidelines within the Chicago Police Department to facilitate achievement of honor or determine what would be categorized as “merit”. In fact, SCC reveals that “merit” would probably constitute having affiliations with certain bosses and being connected with political families. The article states that even though 30% of the promotions were awarded arbitrarily on “merit” grounds and contract, the definitions and regulations on “merit” within Chicago Police Department remain undefined. The officers who had performed well during the promotional procedures felt that it was unfair for those who had finished far below them to have been promoted before them. This goes to show that such promotional methods can breed animosity and dissatisfaction among staff and the candidates who did not get promoted but had fulfilled the necessary requirements will feel discouraged and discriminated against. It is from this angle that organizations need to create fair and transparent guidelines for their promotional systems.

The use of assessment centers has become a popular trend among police departments throughout the nation as a means of identifying and determining the qualified and best candidates for promotion. These assessment centers put into use various modes of assessment including practical and written tests as well as interviews and simulations that evaluate the overall potential of a candidate for promotion. The concept behind assessment centers is the evaluation of all round phases and sections of the job and the candidate’s ability to perform. Although written tests on their own can still evaluate candidates for promotion, they are viewed as single dimensional and may fail to produce the most suitable candidate for promotion as compared to the thoroughness of assessment centers. According to Byham (2002), an assessor is well placed to evaluate a candidate’s ability to perform in a particular job gauging from how he handles simulation problems, challenges and situations for the target job levels. Additionally, assessment centers evaluate candidates on numerous skills. These may include professional communication levels, emotional stability, social skills, leadership, motivation, observation, practical intelligence and potential.

Although they have always been considered and placed under paramilitary types of professions, the police departments and many public safety agencies are only beginning to embrace operational models of their military counterparts. The US Military including Army, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and the Navy, all base promotion of their officers on point systems. This point system is founded on five principles and these include written test scores, commendations and awards, supervision recommendations, time in rank and time in service. Eligibility for promotion is pegged on maintenance of good physical shape and attainment of favorable marks in the test scores. Aspects of effort, education and productivity of the candidate are tested under the written evaluations. Point-matrix system is used in ranking the candidates up for promotion and making a list for the same. When it comes to promotion to managerial and supervisory roles, education is highly stressed and candidates must possess advanced degrees in order to qualify for such posts. This has been the practice in many private sector companies for the longest time. Although some may not view education at degree, level as important, there is a fair amount of perseverance and effective communication skills that are demonstrated by individuals who have gone through degree level education. These individuals also show that they are able to pursue and see through their goals and can display management and leadership skills.

The main objective of this literature review was to assess seniority-based promotion and compare it to the merit promotional system as per the research and studies carried out by varied scholars. As depicted in this review, unionized departments in law enforcement tend to favor and vehemently protect the continuance of seniority-based system for promoting police officers. Even if seniority and merit system of promotion has its own advantages, it still has loopholes and is characterized by major weaknesses that question its effectiveness as a strategy of promoting employees in different organizations, police departments included. Each promotion system is supposed to be founded on effort, work and merit and not perceived as a right or reward for the employees. It is also the right of employees to access growth and development opportunities for personal and organizational achievement. Organizations are thus required to come up with appropriate policies that ensure the most qualified individuals deserving of promotion are offered such opportunities.

Problem Statement

            It is apparent that the Chicago Police Department has in place a promotion system with many loopholes. The system bases its justification on the connection between talents, amassed knowledge and experience or service. The system also upholds that the first employees of the organization should be the first to be accorded promotion circumstances notwithstanding.

            The loopholes that form the weaknesses in this system form the basis of the problem of this study. Promotion based on seniority makes the presumption that employees learn more depending on their length of service. As such, the system tends to demotivate young staffs who have high capabilities and potential because they are not guaranteed of promotion and this affects the overall productivity of the organization. The system further kills inquisitive and creative aspects of employees because regardless of their efforts and skills, employees are assured of promotion with time. Since promotion is less related to performance, this system affects efficiency as employees become complacent in their duties, knowing very well that they will be promoted irrespective of their performance at work. With these problems at the forefront, this study endeavors to explore the current system of promotion at Chicago Police Department and attempt to identify more suitable and efficient systems that can provide appealing alternatives.

Research Questions

Promotion has and should always be considered as a form of reward for efforts, focus, dedication and excellent performance at the workplace. It is therefore wrong to award promotions based on mediocrity with little regard for hard work and valor. Different police departments and services use diverse systems in promoting their officers. In Chicago Police Department, the seniority and merit based system is implemented in promotion processes for staff. This study’s major concern is the effectiveness of this system in identifying and promoting the best candidates to higher ranks in the police cadre. Seniority as a system of promotion has displayed varied challenges with the biggest of them being inability to identify the best candidate for promotion. In the undertaking to determine how effective the current promotion system at CPD is and to improve upon its weakness, this study has posed the following questions to guide the entire process.   

Qn. 1 How effective is the contemporary promotional system in Chicago Police department?

Qn. 2 What are the benefits and the drawbacks of the seniority and merit promotional system as practiced in Chicago Police Department?

Qn. 3 What are the impacts of seniority and merit promotional system as far as performance of the police officers in Chicago Police Department is concerned?

Qn. 4 What are the most appealing alternative promotional systems for Chicago Police Department?


The seniority system of promotion at CPD has many major loopholes and weaknesses. This has led to its ineffectiveness in obtaining desired goals of promotion. The system has passed up the best and most qualified candidates for promotion simply because of their short tenures or lesser experience within the Department’s service. Instead of focusing on performance, the system has awarded promotions based on the time served regardless of the productivity of the employee.

Research Methodology

            Despite having been subject of criticism from both internal and external sources, Chicago Police Department has continued to use the seniority system of promotion. This system is characterized by many faults and weaknesses and as such promotion of officers to higher ranks has been full of loopholes and discrepancies. The main purpose of this study is to identify these weaknesses and seek alternative promotional systems that would apply in the CPD promotional system.

            For this objective to be realized the descriptive method of research will be used to evaluate how effective the current seniority system of promotion at CPD has been. This research method will also be used to determine whether it is possible apply an alternative system of promotion that guarantees the department of awarding promotion to the most qualified candidates. In this light, the study shall conduct a research, which shall involve the current officers of Chicago Police Department to determine their perspectives of the seniority promotional system and how it has affected them.

Data Collection

            The study shall employ both secondary and primary methods of data collection. Two major approaches from the primary data collection technique will be used. These are the use of questionnaires and interviews. In relation to the secondary data collection techniques, the study will review various academic literatures on the subject. These will include government publications, magazines, reliable internet articles, journals and books. The main guides for the literature review will be exploration of the topic of seniority based promotional system and determining better methods or promotion systems that can be employed at the Chicago Police Department.  

Target Population

            “A target population is a group of people or individuals who have been identified by a researcher or any other person as the intended beneficiaries or the recipients of a certain product, advertisement or campaign” (The Business Dictionary 2011). In contrast, Ott and Longnecker (2008) defined a target population as, “the complete collection of objects whose description is the major goal of the study” (p. 24). This study will perceive the target population as all police officers working for Chicago Police Department, irrespective of their level or rank. Nevertheless when conducting the study, it will be impossible to bring on board the entire target population owing to constraints of time, resources and personal commitments of the target population that may hinder them from participating in the study. This is why only a sample population of the target group will be personally involved in the survey. 

Sampled Population

            According to Ott &Longnecker (2008, p.24) Sampled population is defined as “subset of the target population”. From this perspective, the sampled population is part of the bigger population, but will be regarded as a representative of the entire population, and as such possesses all the features of the larger population. Every sampled population must possess the features of the target population. In this study, the sampled population shall be 100 police officers occupying varied ranks in Chicago Police Department. The Study shall make use of a stratified sampling technique in singling out the specific individuals that shall be involved in conducting the survey. A stratified sampling technique entails independently selecting separate and simple random samples from population stratum. The population is divided based on certain features as used in this study such as skills, ranks, and duration of service within the police force.

Questionnaires and Interviews

            The questionnaires will be drawn from information obtained from the literature review and other major interests of this particular survey. The questionnaires shall include questions that seek to determine the feelings and attitudes of interviewee police officers working for Chicago Police Department under the current promotion system, seniority based system. The questions will also seek to assess the effectiveness of this system within the police force and law enforcement system, particularly CPD. Additionally they will also seek to examine diverse yet appealing approaches to promotion that the main stakeholders would be in favor of. 70 questionnaires shall be produced for collecting the data from various police officers at different categories. The study shall fetch views of police officers from three different police stations within the Chicago city. While some of the questionnaires shall be distributed via e-mail, others shall be hand delivered to the sampled population.

            This study shall make use of both the unstructured and the structured types of questions in the quest to determine the effectiveness of the existing promotion system in CPD and to identify alternative promotional systems as employed in other private and government organizations. The structured questions will be in two major categories: The questions with responses limited to “Yes” or “No” and those whose answers shall be spread along a Likert Scale, with responses such as “Good’, “Very Good”, “Fair” “Unfair”, “Biased”, ‘Agree’, “Strongly agree’’ “Disagree”, and “Strongly disagree”. On the other hand, the unstructured questions shall permit the respondents to share their attitudes, feelings, opinions and inclinations in regard to the current system and other alternative promotion systems.

            30 interviews shall be conducted in the attempt to determine the effectiveness of the current promotion system in Chicago Police Department. The interviews shall also seek to identify some more complimentary promotional systems that could give promotional opportunities to the best candidates. Both the junior and senior employees shall be subjected to the interview questions. Employees who have benefitted from the existing seniority system and those who are yet to will also be interviewed. The questions in the interview shall be open-ended because these types of questions, unlike the closed-ended, which encourage the respondents to give meaningful answers using their own knowledge, experiences and understanding of the subject matter. The open-ended questions tend to be less leading and are more objective, thus will allow the respondents to air their feelings. The interviewer shall take control over the interview most of the time so as to ensure that it remains within the limits of the study’s interest.

            According to Connaway & Powel (2010, p. 161) it is necessary for a researcher to carry out a pilot or present study by administering the prepared interview instruments on a few individuals from your target population in order to determine whether the interview and questionnaires questions shall be effective in realizing the desired objective. The pretest study entails preparing draft questionnaires and interview questions, then distributing them to the target population. A process helps researchers identify possible shortcomings such as ambiguous questions, biased questions, sensitive questions, vague questions, repeated questions and offensive questions in the questionnaire or interview document.

Data Analysis

            After collection of data using the interviews and questionnaires, analysis shall be carried out to determine the results of the survey. The first step will be to enter the data in a spreadsheet and group it into different categories so as to make the analysis process easier. When analyzing collected data, the study shall employ the use of analytical induction method of analysis. Analytical induction as a method was first named and described by Florian Znaniecki in 1934. He was however careful to note that even though he named and described analytical induction, the method might have been known for many years, and had probably been in use for many years before his discovery of it. This method encompasses inductive reasoning as opposed to inductive form of reasoning. In this approach, you need to identify the relationships that exist amongst different concepts (Ratcliff, 1994, p. 1). 

            Once the unstructured questions from both interviews and questionnaires have been grouped an analysis process involving the comparison of various responses in order to formulate various hypothesis statements in relation to the subject matter. The major weaknesses in seniority and merit promotional system shall then be listed as per the responses of the respondents. These challenges shall be classified together in the attempt to determine the most common problems encountered by the different respondents in Chicago Police Department. The feelings of the participants in relation to the current promotion system in the CPD shall be listed and grouped so as to determine the common feelings of the police officers, both young and old, about the seniority based promotion system. From both the secondary and the primary data, the most appealing alternative promotional systems for police officers in Chicago Police Department shall be identified.

Limitations and Assumptions

            The survey is characterized by one primary weakness that might affect the findings, though sampling shall be used in order to reduce this effect. Due to the expansive size of the department as far as labor and geography of the districts are concerned, the surveys shall only be limited to 100 officers in CPD.  The survey instruments shall be issued to various officers across all three watches in all age groups, levels of education and positions to capture a very good cross section of the Chicago Police Department.

Definition of Terms

Assessment Centers: Refers to a type of promotional tool that uses a series of evaluative tests and exercises for selection and development of candidates.

Merit: Refers to conduct or character of praiseworthy quality, skill, talent, knowledge or capability that deserves an honor or reward based on past record of service or accomplishments.

Position: Refers to any office or employment in municipal police services whereas service calls duties are to be rendered by one individual.

Promotion: Refers to changing the service classification of and employee from one position to a higher position that usually affords an increase in pay and responsibilities.

Seniority: Refers to the total time an employee has continuously worked in a permanently appointed capacity from the date of hire to the date of computation.  Total departmental seniority in service is considered unbroken and continuous until discharge or resignation regardless of class or position.  Accumulated seniority of an employee is considered null and void by any employee immediately upon resignation or discharge.  Any employee, who has been suspended for not longer than thirty days, returning to their position immediately following the suspension expiration does not forfeit any seniority.















"Agreement between Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge #7 and the City of Chicago." (2010, Apr.) Retrieved November 23, 2011 from

Agrawal, P. (1995). Motivation and Indian bureaucracy. New York, NY: M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd.






















Appendix A. Chicago Police Department Questionnaire


1.      What position do you currently hold in the Chicago Police Department?

a.       Police Officer (Incl. Det., Marine, S.W.A.T., etc.)

b.      Sergeant

c.       Lieutenant

d.      Exempt (Higher rank/Other)


2.      What is your length of employment with the Chicago Police Department?

a.       1-5 years

b.      6-10 years

c.       11-20 years

d.      21-25 years

e.       26 years or more


3.      What is your current level of education?


a.       GED

b.      High School

c.       Some College

d.      Associates Degree

e.       Bachelors Degree

f.       Masters Degree

g.      Other


4.      What is your opinion of the fairness of the Chicago Police Departments’ seniority promotional system?


a.       Very fair

b.      Fair

c.       Unfair

d.      Very unfair


5.      What is your opinion of the fairness of the Chicago Police Departments’ merit promotional system?


a.       Very fair

b.      Fair

c.       Unfair

d.      Very unfair


6.      In reference to the Chicago Police Departments’ seniority promotional system, do you believe seniority provides sufficient experience or expertise?


a.       Yes

b.      No

c.       Unsure


7.      How satisfied are you with the Chicago Police Departments’ current seniority/merit promotional system?


a.       Very Satisfied

b.      Satisfied

c.       Unsatisfied

d.      Very Unsatisfied


8.      Do you believe the Chicago Police Departments’ current promotional system ensures the best-qualified candidates are promoted?


a.       Always

b.      Sometimes

c.       Rarely

d.      Never


9.      Do you believe the Chicago Police Department properly prepares its employees for promotion?


a.       Yes

b.      No

c.       Unsure


10.  In regards to the public served, how do you see the current promotional system?


a.       An advantage

b.      A disadvantage

c.       Unsure


11.  What is your opinion about changing the current system to a performance-based promotional system?


a.       Strongly Support

b.      Support

c.       Neutral

d.      Against

e.       Strongly Against


12.  What other promotional systems are you familiar with other than seniority promotion system?


13.  What other promotional system would you recommend for use in Chicago Police department?


14.  What are the major weaknesses that you have identified in the current promotion system in the CPD?















Appendix B

Figure 1

Source: Hickman, M., & Reaves, B. (2006). U.S. Department of Justice survey on local law enforcement.