CAP: A program for police leaders to develop better employees

One of the main organizational objectives within a law enforcement agency is the recruitment, retention, and succession planning of department personnel.


The daily duties of a police officer can be frenzied and stressful, or they can become routine and mundane. One of the challenges for any police leader is to help their officers manage the daily ups and downs of their jobs, while still keeping them focused on the larger picture of professional development and career progression. At times it can be difficult to balance these two objectives, but it can be done. 

One of the main organizational objectives within a law enforcement agency is the recruitment, retention, and succession planning of department personnel. Ideally, we hope to recruit the right people, train them and keep their talents within the organization, and then identify and develop qualified candidates to fill future promotional vacancies.

To help accomplish this, most agencies use an annual performance evaluation system to assess the performance of department employees. While some evaluation systems are very effective, often the drawback of annual evaluation systems is that they primarily focus on the short term, or they only serve as a historical record for employee activities of the preceding year.  

Career Advancement Profile 
In order to be truly effective and help achieve long-term organizational objectives, a performance evaluation system must not only address the administrative purpose of evaluating employees, it must address the larger issue of professional development and progression. A proven way to accomplish this is through the inclusion of a Career Advancement Profile (CAP) Program.

Career Advancement Profiles — or similarly named programs — have been in existence in other professions for several years and are most commonly found in the fields of healthcare and education. The CAP Program can be integrated into the employee’s annual evaluation and performance review, but unlike a simple review of performance it will focus on the larger context of the employee’s career development within the department.

Each employee’s profile will consist of their current level of skills, knowledge, and abilities — their individual career goals and interests — and a potential list of goals and objectives to help the employee further develop an area of interest or advance their qualifications towards a career goal. 

In terms of individual employee development, the advantages of using a CAP program are threefold: 

1. The program helps employees to identify specific areas of professional interest, and matches areas of interest with departmental needs. By capitalizing on areas of their interest, it is easier to keep employees actively engaged and motivated. 
2. The program provides information and specified avenues for career advancement through education, advanced training, and professional development.
3. The program encourages further professional growth and development through formal acknowledgement of officers who have dedicated themselves to advance their professional abilities and leadership skills. 

Advantages of a CAP Program
A major advantage of the Career Advancement Profile is that it can be customized to the particular employee and career stage. For example, the initial profile review between the employee and supervisor should take place at the first annual review following permanent appointment to the department, and should focus on strengths and the developmental areas for the first three to five years of the employee’s career. 

Succeeding reviews will help the employee to identify particular areas of professional interest, potential avenues for promotion, advancement, or reassignment within the department, and options for enhancing skills and qualifications. Profile reviews are not intended to stop once an employee reaches a desired promotion, but rather are modified towards new career goals and potential opportunities. 

The success of a CAP Program will hinge upon the ability of the supervisors to tailor the reviews to the traits and interests of the particular officer, and for the department to utilize a variety of assessment and training tools to engage the employee and motivate him or her towards their personal career goals. Possible examples of assessment and training tools can include such things as personality profile tests; specialized training and assignments; job shadowing; coaching and mentoring; and leadership feedback and appraisals. 

For example, a junior officer with a career goal of promotional advancement to a higher ranking position within the department could be given the opportunity to job shadow with a command level officer. This will not only provide a form of job enrichment to the employee in their current position, but can also provide valuable insight into the traits, skills, and abilities necessary to be successful at a higher ranking position. 

The CAP Program — because it is integrated as a separate part of the formal evaluation process — can focus on both short-term and long-term goals in relationship to individual career development and advancement. Moreover, while the contents and assessment areas of the evaluation form itself may change over time as the required skills and demands of the job may dictate, the program is more individualized to each employee and thus remains constant in its focus during the evaluation and review process.

From the department perspective, the Career Advancement Profile Program incorporates the strategic, administrative, and developmental purposes of the performance management system, and therefore is a more encompassing and effective method of employee evaluation and development. By creating personalized, long-term career goals and objectives, which are aligned with the organizations goals of retention, development, and succession planning, the program can serve the best interests of both the employees and the department. 

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