Beyond the Badge - Explaining the rank structure

November 2, 2017 - 9:04am

People are often curious about how the police rank structure and promotional process works.

At the Medicine Hat Police Service (MHPS), the rank structure starts with five classes of constables. Advancement in classification is generally made on an annual basis, moving from 5th Class to 1st Class over a period of five years.

The rank of Sergeant, however, is a promoted rank. Constables who have at least five years of experience may participate in a promotional process, after which the most suitable applicant selected by a promotional board. A sergeant is placed into a leadership position where he or she is charged with supervising a unit, or they may be placed into the Major Crimes Section as a senior investigator.

A similar process is conducted for the next promoted rank, staff sergeant. Staff sergeants have a great deal of responsibility, as they oversee all the decisions made within their section or team. The next rank is Inspector, which as a “Commissioned” rank, in other words “upper management.”

Sometimes people assume that an inspector is like a detective, but in reality, the position is an administrative one with the individual in charge of overseeing an entire division, made up of several sections and units. The MHPS has three divisions, therefore three inspectors. The top rank of officer at the MHPS is the position of Chief of Police.

The MHPS takes leadership development for non-commissioned officer ranks (sergeants and staff sergeants) very seriously. Promotions are based on performance, merit, seniority, competence and various other attributes. Once promoted, members are provided with various opportunities to enhance their leadership skills.

This year, several of the MHPS sergeants and staff sergeants were enrolled in the International Association of Chiefs of Police Leadership Program. The course is a three-month long program that requires three one-week residencies at the Regina Police College. Given the responsibility and influence that these leaders have over day-to-day police operations, it is critical that they develop sound reason and judgment skills that are required to balance the needs of the community, the Service and individual police members. Decisions that affect lives are made each and every day in various units and sections. Those decisions are a reflection of leadership and how well leaders are developed.

For the commissioned officer ranks, (inspector and chief) leadership revolves around determining the direction of the Service. The chief and inspectors are responsible for assuring that a strategic plan is developed and executed. Senior leadership are also responsible for decisions that have significant impact on the community, service, and individual members. These include decisions about discipline, media relations, budget accountability and new technology. Training and development at the senior leadership level takes place in several ways. Some choose to pursue and complete bachelor degrees, master degrees, or in rare cases, doctorates in various disciplines, but usually closely tied to police leadership.

The Canadian Police College also offers Senior Police Leadership Development in the Executive Development Program. Each Inspector at MHPS has completed, or is the process of completing, the year-long course. The course includes online learning, discussion groups, assignments and two residencies. It also requires the completion of a Strategic Change Project, whereby a major change is formulated (based on a need) then initiated within the Service. Some past projects include the development of a comprehensive Fitness and Lifestyles Program, and the development a Mental Wellness Program. The Executive Development Course develops critical thinking skills and exposes the student to other police executives from across the country and around the world. The Executive Development program is one of the many ways the MHPS strives to develop people to their full potential, which ultimately enhances service to the community; the primary objective for police leaders.

Born and raised in Medicine Hat, Inspector Joe West started his policing career with the Calgary Police Service in 1995, and joined the Medicine Hat Police Service in 1997. Joe has served a number of roles throughout the Service including Patrols, the Tactical Team, the Organized Crime Section, and most recently the Major Crimes Section. As a member of the executive teal, Joe provides leadership and support to the operational services division, which includes patrols, the Traffic Unit and Municipal Bylaw Enforcement. 

Beyond the Badge
By Medicine Hat Police Service