Individual Roles in Succession Planning

By:  Chief Mark Yokoyama, Alhambra Police Department


Many agencies, departments and organizations have succession plans to some degree, some better than others, some written and some not, and perhaps some implemented and some not. It is a plan for developing people, systems and processes within an organization so that as leaders vacate positions successors are prepared for new leadership positions. These plans may dictate such things as desired experiences, diversified assignments, knowledge, training, education levels, and so on to prepare individuals early for future positions.

Succession plans as we know it rely heavily on what others have in place or desire for continuity of leadership in organizations. Granted, progressive organizations have undoubtedly provided for input in the development of succession plans, but a key factor that is out of the control of organizations is the level of personal responsibility aspiring leaders must take for the plans to have an optimal performance.

Too often I have seen and heard from individuals wanting to take on the leadership challenge of a promotional opportunity just weeks or months prior to a pending examination for that position. Unfortunately, more often than not, the lack of proper preparation has prevented many from realizing their desired outcome in spite of a succession plan being in place. Generally, one can’t control who is selected for training, special assignments, promotions, etc., but one can control how they respond, prepare and plan for their own future.

Having succession plans in place are great for organizations, but are also opportunities for aspiring leaders to use as a road map for themselves in the coming years. Even if organizations do not have a succession plan in place you can and should create one for yourself as a map for your own future and succession. This map requires the good follower and aspiring leader to take the initiative to make themselves competitive for whatever they are hoping to attain. In the end it is you that has to invest in your own future. Your organization can provide an opportunity, but it is up to you to seize it.

So, how does one invest in their own future? In a previous article I wrote about professional development requiring passion; passion in the context of having an intense desire, commitment and competitive spirit to make one better. You can accomplish this through designing your own succession plan that focuses on your development in areas of education, training, community involvement, and personal development in skills such as public speaking, presentations and persuasive writing. Knowing your own organization’s succession plan, its values, philosophy and mission are all starting points for you on where to focus your priorities, but as already mentioned it is up to you to take the next steps.

One of your next steps as part of your plan should be taking advantage of opportunities for your professional growth with involvement in the California Peace Officers’ Association. CPOA is your source for professional development and provides you the opportunity to:


  • Strengthen your career through training
  • Stay current on hot topics, legal updates, critical incidents and contemporary issues
  • Stay abreast of and get involved with legislative issues
  • Broaden your knowledge with the Journal of California Law Enforcement and California Peace Office on-line magazine
  • Participate in the COPSWEST Training & Expo
  • Network and learn from local colleagues through the region leadership board
  • Meet industry leaders and shape the industry’s future by participating in a CPOA committee
  • Receive mentorship from a host of successful leaders


CPOA provides access and opportunity for you to take your personal succession plan to the next level, but it is up to you to find the passion, seize the opportunity, and define the moment. Take advantage of your membership and reach out to CPOA staff, the CPOA Board or directly with me to put your succession plan into play.


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