Though women are starting to break through the glass ceiling in police departments around the country, they remain severely under-represented, according to the National Center for Women and Policing. Women account for only 13 percent of police officers in the U.S., and in 2008, there were only 212 female police chiefs. If you’re interested in becoming a police chief, you’ll need to meet some education, experience and physical fitness requirements and sit for at least one interview.
As the chief of a police department, part of your job involves managing personnel and resources. You’re also the liaison between the department and members of city government. When interviewing police chief applicants, Palm Bay City Manager Lee Feldman asks about their management style as well as how they’ll get along with city council members, department personnel and members of the community. He also asks about any issues that could affect the applicant’s working relationship with him as the city manager and how they could proactively resolve the issue.
Accomplishments, Experience and Training
During an interview, you need to sell yourself, so prepare to talk about your accomplishments during your law-enforcement career. You’ll also need to highlight any special training you’ve had that has prepared you for the job. For example, in 2010, when the mayor and aldermen of Smithville, Tennessee interviewed police chief candidates, they discussed the importance of beefing up the town’s criminal investigations division and how each candidate’s previous experience and training best suited them for the job. David L. Kurz, chief of police for the Durham, New Hampshire police department, told The Police Chief magazine that he also factors in a candidate’s ability to stay positive about her experience and qualities.
During your interview, you may need to address questions about recruiting qualified applicants for police officer positions. According to Feldman, you should be ready to talk about your philosophy and techniques related to recruitment as well as how you plan to increase the retention of law-enforcement personnel.
Expect to talk about your experience with budgets, as the police chief oversees the budget for the police department. You should also be able to talk about your experience developing and enforcing policies and procedures and also your familiarity with the Civil Service Department disciplinary process. You may also need experience with or knowledge of collective bargaining, which involves negotiating salary and benefits for members of the police department.
Know Your Audience
You may speak with several people during the interview process and even get called in for additional interviews. For example, police officer applicants in Madison, Wisconsin, have at least two – and sometimes three – interviews. The first interview is with officers from the police department, and the second interview is with the town’s Police and Fire Commission, or PFC. The PFC forwards the names of its preferred candidates to the police chief, who then conducts a one-on-one interview. You may want to rehearse answers to some of the questions you'll likely field during an interview. According to "Police Chief Magazine," you should provide complete answers to questions and engage the interviewer in conversation.
- Town of Lynnfield, Massachusetts: BadgeQuest Report – Lynnfield Police Department
- ICMA: Interview Questions for Police Chief
- WJLE: City Leaders Interview Applicants for Police Chief
- The Police Chief: A Promotional Process for the Smaller Police Agency
- Policeone.com: U.S. Has 212 Female Police Chiefs, Still a Vast Minority
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.