Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Super Sergeants


When I was in the UK Police the rank of Sergeant was (and still is) the one above mine, which was Constable.

To become a Sergeant you had to do an NPIA OSPRE Sergeants’ Part 1 examination. This is 150 multiple-choice questions over a three-hour period.

Upon passing that you would then get the opportunity to take OSPRE Part 2, where you have role play actors in 5 minute assessments where you have “rank specific” problems to deal with. As the assessor watches you, pen blurring over his clipboard, you have to tick boxes in the areas of:

  • Serving the Public
  • Leading Change
  • Leading People
  • Managing Performance
  • Professionalism
  • Decision Making
  • Working with Others

Then you go for Sergeants’ Board where you give a presentation and have a structured interview with a panel. The presentation is 30 minutes of preparation time and 10 minutes to prepare, using flip charts only.

Sounds great!

Problem is that the multiple choice questions are usually completely across the range and test nothing other than the ability to impersonate the Encyclopedia Britannica and have shite all to do with the daily tasks a Sergeant would likely face. They ask questions such as “how far is a car allowed to drive onto public land before parking?” or “how wide can a private driveway be before it is classed as obstructing the highway?”

You must get at least 75% on this and then move up to the part 2. In my day this was almost entirely focussed on Race and Diversity scenarios (although to be fair, the 2012 OSPRE Part 2 synopsis makes no mention of them) .

The Board is in theory hard, but no matter how much you cream the difficult questions on leadership, crisis management and multi-tasking you can again fail on ONE question about Race and Diversity. An excellent Acting Detective Sergeant I knew (Constable doing the job temporarily) went for the Board and was asked by an Indian interviewer “if someone made a racist remark in the van one night, what would you do?”

He replied that he would make a note of it in his Notebook, speak privately to the individual concerned to warn them of their behaviour BUT if he felt no one was bothered he would not take it any further.

There was a pregnant pause.

He told me later that he realised his mistake and then said “actually, can I retract that? It is clearly not up to ME to decide if anyone was offended or not. I would still report the remark.”

He failed his Board as you could not then flunk ANY aspect of fucking Race and bastard Diversity and still get through, no matter how well you did on other areas. The justification for failing him was that while he gave the right answer, he gave it at the wrong time and was therefore not attuned sufficiently to the wonderful, section 5 POA-abusing world of modern coppering.

Another rather sinister aspect of UK Police Sergeanting is that, in the absence of a substantive skipper the most senior person on the Section the Sergeant normally supervises, can then “act up”. This results in someone of 3 years service clipping a pair of chevrons to their shoulder blades and telling the Section (from 4 to 20 Constables) what to do. These can include more experienced officers than the Acting Sergeant…but with less time on that particular Section.

Which brings me to...

I have a friend in the Italian Polizia who is a Sovrintendente. 

When he described what he does (he’s in the Italian Polizia’s SWAT) I insisted he was the equivalent of an Inspector, despite the word being the same as the English “Superintendent.”

He in turn insisted he is a Sergeant, albeit quite a powerful one.

After some research I found out the following.

Upon joining the Italian Polizia you are awarded the rank of Agente (Officer).


Every 5 years you go up one rank. Your shoulder insignia changes to reflect this. So then you become Agente Scelto (Chosen Officer);



 after 10 years Assistente (Assistant);



and 15 years Assistente Capo (Assistant Chief).



These are ALL basic ranks still equivalent to UK Constable, simply with insignia and gradings reflect length of service and also, in theory, knowledge and experience. They have NO power to command others at these grades.

Then we have the Sovrintendente ranks. The equivalent to Sergeant in the UK. My friend is a Sovrintendente 



and has a Vice Sovrintendente (Deputy Sergeant) below him.



I thought he was equivalent to Inspector because he controls more than one unit of officers and has both officers and junior supervisors below him.

After more than 30 years in the Italian Police he says he is now ready to take his exam for Sovrintendente Capo (Chief Sergeant).



Italian Polizia Senior Management periodically publish announcements for who can participate in exams for Sovrintendente vacancies all around Italy.

There is a questionnaire of 80 questions to be answered in 50 minutes plus courses in becoming an instructor in firearms and shooting, records, operations and many others.

I know an English police Constable who made substantive Sergeant in 2 years (but he’s openly gay which may or may not have been a factor).

I know a guy who made Inspector in 6 years (but he’s a badass who was an officer in the Army and a good lad so hey!)

In Italy you cannot carry a Sergeant’s responsibilities until at LEAST 15 years in the job.

There is one level of for each rank in the UK Police. In Italy there are 4 for what we call a Constable, three for a Sergeant, five for Inspector, five for Superintendent and three ranks of Chief.

Leadership is based upon skill, wisdom and knowledge plus time served. In the UK it is based upon how many boxes you can tick and how well you can impress people who themselves want further promotion.

Only dampener on this was finding out that while Italian Polizia carry a BERETTA 92 FS they are not allowed pepper spray.

1 comment:

  1. Cause the italian police have that whole law and order thing sussed don't they... I really must stop adding comments to this blog in reverse chronological order...

    ReplyDelete

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