Objective: To evaluate the effects of police cadets’ facial traits on their subsequent promotional success.Methods: Using archival police academy photographs, we use a two-phase experiment to evaluate the impact of facial traits on future promotional success. First, respondents view randomly selected photographs of cadets (n=508, observations=15,669) and evaluate them for facial traits and perceived leadership ability. Second, respondents, who are presented with dyads of un-promoted versus promoted recruits, choose a winner based on their perceived leadership ability. We compare leadership evaluations by respondents to the subsequent promotional success of the cadets featured in the photographs (observations=42,186). We employ Bayesian multilevel modeling throughout both phases.Results: Facial traits are the primary driver of subject perceptions of leadership ability, and those perceptions successfully predict promotional success later in the cadets’ careers, with approximately 70% accuracy. Further, respondents’ evaluations successfully discriminate both between no promotion and any promotion, and sergeant versus lieutenant promotions.Conclusions: Promoting the most capable police officers is a critical feature of public service. Our findings cast a degree of doubt on the purportedly meritocratic foundations of police promotion and selection. Extra-legal information, such as facial features, predict later promotional success.