Writer: Roger Nielsen
Dozens of eager candidates for what could be the Georgia State Patrol’s toughest job tackled realistic management scenarios while out-of-state peers assessed their leadership capability.
The assessors — troopers recruited from state police agencies throughout the country — are trained by Institute of Government faculty to evaluate candidates in the final and most difficult phase of the Georgia State Patrol promotional process. They serve weeklong assignments in an “assessment center” that the Institute and the Georgia Department of Public Safety organize, rating fellow officers’ responses to role-playing scenarios, written reports and oral presentations.
A recent assessment center brought troopers from eight states to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth to evaluate 39 candidates vying for promotion to sergeant first class with the Georgia State Patrol.
“Sergeant first class is probably the most difficult job with the State Patrol,” says Mark Foster, the Institute of Government faculty member who oversees assessor training. The job requires a sergeant first class to lead one of Georgia’s 52 patrol posts, which includes supervising a staff with one sergeant, one corporal and eight to 20 troopers as well as maintaining good working relations with dozens of sheriffs, police chiefs and elected officials. “It’s a lot to deal with.”
Foster begins an assessment center by training first-time and veteran assessors in evaluation criteria and scoring methods. Then, Foster and other Institute of Government instructors organize the assessors into three-member panels to practice the day before bringing in candidates for live reviews.
“Around a dozen candidates for promotion come in each day and participate in three exercises or job simulations, and these panels of three assessors evaluate the candidates across the three exercises,” he said.
Some of the assessor teams will score written reports that are assigned to the candidates after they pass a written promotional test. Others will rate a candidate’s ability to deliver a topical oral presentation. And a third panel will appraise how accurately and completely the candidates respond to a job-related scenario that a sergeant first class might face as a post commander.
The recent assessor cohort brought together troopers from Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. The Georgia Department of Public Safety recruits out-of-state troopers to serve as unbiased evaluators and has reciprocal agreements with many eastern states, according to assessment center coordinator Marie Harris of the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s Human Resources Division.
“A lot of the troopers say they like to come to Georgia for the camaraderie and to meet troopers from other states. It’s a networking opportunity in addition to hard work,” Harris said.
Lt. Brad Bucey of the Ohio State Highway Patrol was in Forsyth on his first assignment as an assessor.
“I wasn’t really sure what was going to be expected of me, but everything was explained very well,” Bucey said. “I think Georgia did a phenomenal job of getting us all together.”
Preparing assessors to evaluate candidates constitutes only part of the assessment center services that the Institute of Government provides for the Georgia State Patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, local fire departments and local police departments. Analyzing the candidates’ scores, preparing the rosters and notifying the candidates are other tasks the Institute of Government manages, according to Julia Haas, who has worked with Foster on nearly a dozen assessment centers since joining the Institute faculty last year.
“Once the assessors have scored the candidates, we look at the scores to make sure the scoring was done correctly,” Haas said. “We also start entering the results while we’re on-site.”
Foster analyzes the results and groups the scores into bands, or ranges. Troopers who attain the highest band are eligible to apply for any sergeant-first-class jobs that come open in the following year, Haas said.
“Our job is to make sure that the entire process runs smoothly,” she said.