There are some distinct advantages to being an internal candidate for police chief. These advantages were discussed in detail in a previous blog post last week. While I believe internal candidates should be given a lot of consideration, there are many significant advantages for outside candidates.
Let’s examine the top five advantages of being an outside candidate for police chief.
1.Culture Shift is Easier
A quick scan of Google provides ample evidence that many police departments are in turmoil and need new leadership. An outside police chief can provide the change in direction that many agencies need.
If the current police chief failed in some way, promoting the new police chief from within may only continue to perpetuate the problems that existed under the previous police chief. Although it is not impossible, it is tough for internal candidates to take their department in a new direction.
In many cases, significant changes in the direction of the department are expected by the members of the department when an external police chief is hired. Therefore, the changes are more readily accepted by the staff.
2. No Long History With Staff
Internal candidates typically have both positive and negative relationships with members of the department. These relationships have the potential to present problems for the new chief.
Those negative relationships may lead to the chief being undermined in his or her new position, which can make the job even more difficult. Still, negative past relationships are not the only problem. Believe it or not, those positive relationships can potentially be worse. When the new chief makes promotions or transfers to specialized units, there can be allegations of favoritism.
Either way, having long-term positive or negative relationships with staff members can be a challenge.
External candidates do not have that long history with staff and can avoid those pitfalls that exist with internal candidates.
When an external candidate is selected, staff members start with a clean slate. There are no long-term relationships that have to be managed or accounted for. Everyone is treated equally and appearances of favoritism can likely be avoided.
Of course, even external candidates may know some members of the agency where he or she is hired depending on where the candidate is from originally.
3. New Ideas Brought to Department
External candidates can bring fresh ideas to their new department.
Although some programs and ideas are familiar to most departments, others are unique to a particular agency. Many of these innovative ideas grow out of circumstances and experiences gained by the outside candidate over their career.
Internal candidates can have similar ideas as each other because they are exposed to the same issues and problems at their agency throughout their career. Therefore, their response and plans to combat the particular problems may be similar to what has been tried at the agency before.
In other words, the ideas of internal candidates may be limited by having worked only in that department.
Although the ideas of external candidates will also be limited, they can have many different ideas because of their experiences with other departments.
4. Longer Honeymoon Phase
Most police chiefs experience a honeymoon phase. How long that period lasts depends a lot on the dynamics of the agency and the state of the politics.
I have witnessed many instances where newly promoted internal candidates had difficulty making the much-needed changes to the organization because of budgetary restrictions. The city council was unwilling to appropriate the needed funds.
Outside candidates seem to have a leg up on internal candidates when it comes to getting the support needed to make changes to the organization. Rightly or wrongly, I think they are viewed differently by the council members; almost like an out of town expert.
Also, there may be some consideration of the fact that if an outside candidate is selected, it may be an acknowledgment that significant changes are needed at the department. Therefore, the city council is more likely to support those changes.
Internal candidates can be limited by the experience they have at the department.
External candidates, on the other hand, typically have a wide variety of experience gained through their work at their current or previous department. This experience manifests itself through the number of people supervised, the size of budget managed, type of programs initiated, type of units supervised and dozens of other experiences that provide a real advantage.
When I applied for the open police chief position with the Marietta Police Department, I held the rank of Deputy Chief. My entire law enforcement experience was gained at the Marietta Police Department and was therefore limited by the opportunities available there.
Unfortunately, I could not compete against the external candidate who was selected when it came to experience. He had gained a vast amount of experience working at a much larger department for over 20 years. Also, he served as the police chief of a 600-person department and oversaw the consolidation of the city and county police departments.
As an internal candidate, I could not compete with that experience.
Obviously, internal candidates are not police chiefs. The majority of them have never served as one, so the City Manager or Mayor is taking a chance by hiring an unproven police chief. On the other hand, a lot of external candidates are either current police chiefs or have served as one previously.
Experience as a police chief is a definite advantage.
I struggled somewhat this week trying to identify the advantages of hiring an outside police chief. Feel free to share any additional advantages I failed to mention either in the comments below or by emailing me directly.
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