On Book Learnin’

I’ve long been troubled by the police promotion process, and at the outset have to state that I never went through it. It was traffic law, mainly – I really didn’t care one iota about tyre tread depths. Nor did I want to learn about how to deal with the one theft of a deer the CPS ever dealt with (if indeed they ever did). Plus I wanted to avoid the nonsense of a guaranteed ethics failure for the heinous crime of accidental use of the word ‘manpower’ in a Part II station exercise.

I once opined that the promotion exam was nothing more than a filter to avoid everyone doing the practical element – the cost and logistics would have been massive – because every single question asked had an answer that could be found ‘in a book’. In other words, not entirely but predominantly, questions rarely related to the need for an instant decision on the street, outside of the execution of some powers. And even those were subject of ‘mays’, ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’, which allowed for interpretation and error. While the knowledge in the exam was sound, the need to know it immediately and by heart was arguably only necessary as a rite of passage to the next stage. I got a bit of a response to that idea, as you can imagine.

In my defence, it wasn’t a lack of intellectual ability. I topped my force on the Investigator’s exam and got a couple of 100%s in the financial investigator’s process. Direct, relevant knowledge that applied to the service I was providing. Never even  saw a deer until I went to Richmond on a  fraud enquiry. That wasn’t about venison theft.

Meanwhile, I was out there learning some other stuff. I qualified as a Legal Executive, and I could make the argument that the knowledge I gained there – at least in part – would have been, and possibly was more useful in my role as a detective, particularly in fraud. The probate knowledge I studied got more and more useful as lawyers buck-passed will disputes to us, and I bounced many straight back. I dabbled in psychology (and philosophy) and used that knowledge to get an admission from a murderer’s wife that she hid his blood-stained clothing. I read on logic and used that quite frequently!

Mais – je regret. All the missed opportunities because I didn’t want to play someone else’s silly game. To quote Captain Bertorelli in ‘Allo ‘Allo – what a mistake-a to make-a.

Which brings me to the point of this post. In order to be better at what you do, you have to be willing to study, and ‘up’ needs not be the only motivation and focus for that study. ‘Up’ gets you responsibilities and more money. Can’t argue with that. But widening your knowledge base is equally rewarding,  can be financially useful outside the organisation, and will serve your professional competence if you choose the right subjects.

Set time aside, every week, for study. Get a Kindle or other e-reader and keep it with you (if you can) so that down time can be utilised to enhance your competence and character. Consider audio-books as entertainment in your car instead if BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM  hearing-threatening music. (I use the term ‘music’ advisedly in the case of the BOOM BOOM stuff.)

Incidentally, one bye-product of reading is the improved ability to write (and even speak) with correct diction and grammar. Which, oddly, seems to be a character trait of anyone of status who worked for and deserved that status. (Not YouTube influencers and TV presenters who’ve forgotten how to pronounce the ‘T’ in British.)

Don’t – ever, as I did – restrict your potential by a failure to study both the ‘required’ disciplines and in those fields which can enhance your professional competence. Remember – when you retire/resign/get shafted, your Sergeant’s Exam pass won’t be  lot of use outside. It’s a great foundation provided you keep your studies going. So do that.

Start studying. And never stop.

Published by policetimemanagement

30 year policing veteran and time management authority. Now I've combined the two.

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