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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Thought you'd all find this interesting:


JOHN O'LEARY
Civil service rules force bad hires
By John O'Leary | July 7, 2004

AT A TIME when terrorism threatens us, the need for highly skilled police officers is greater than ever. So what do you call a system that makes less able candidates police officers at the expense of those who scored highest on an objective test? Most people would call it foolish. In Massachusetts, it's called civil service.

On a recent civil service exam for Boston Police, 492 candidates scored 95 or above. But only one of these 492 top scorers landed in the first 75 positions on the civil service hiring list. Boston's finest apparently doesn't have room for Boston's best.

Civil service began as a merit-based system to root out patronage and corruption. Candidates took a test, and those with the highest scores went to the top of the list. But this noble idea is almost foreign to the current system. Massachusetts now tests for merit, then ignores the results.

On a recent Springfield police exam, 296 candidates passed. But the top three candidates on the hiring list ranked 172d, 284th, and 241st, on the exam. On the 2,000 Boston firefighters exam, 29 candidates scored 100 percent (or better, with bonus points for experience and education). None of these 29 top scorers was among the top 200 names on the hiring list.

Unfortunately, rather than picking the cream of the crop, communities are often left scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Why are those with such low scores hired? Because Massachusetts hands out a slew of "absolute preferences," which effectively trump test scores, to veterans, disabled veterans, the sons and daughters of police officers injured in the line of duty, town residents, and more. One-third of all hires to the Worcester police force aren't even hired off the civil service exam lists, entering through the cadet program instead.

In contrast to Massachusetts's contorted system of absolute preferences, most other states take the more reasonable course of adding a few points to certain candidates' exam scores, providing a balance between maintaining excellence in the work force and recognizing the sacrifice of veterans and others.

Clearly, how you score on the civil service exam makes almost no difference whether you land a public safety job in Massachusetts. Cities and towns are not even given the candidates' actual scores. And if a municipality doesn't pick from the top of the non-merit-based hiring list, candidates can appeal to the Civil Service Commission.

Many people wrongly assume that racial preferences are the primary culprit undermining merit. They are not. In fact, the rules around hiring sometimes work against minority candidates.

In 2003, Brockton wanted to hire some police officers who could speak Portuguese. The number 6 candidate on the civil service list was a white individual who scored 75. Number eight was a minority candidate scoring 97.

Both spoke Portuguese and were Brockton residents; neither was a veteran. Why would a minority who scored 22 points higher go to the back of the hiring bus? The state was simply following the rules dictated by absolute preferences when it sent out this topsy-turvy list.

The minority candidate is not the only loser; the city of Brockton also loses. Of the 996 police candidates who passed the test, the number six candidate was outscored by 976 of them. So Brockton has someone who barely passed the exam responding to 911 calls, handling evidence in murder trials, and trying to break up gangs.

As bad as civil service is for police, fire, and corrections, it is even worse outside of public safety. The state stopped giving tests for most job titles years ago. As a result, roughly half the civil service work force exists in a bizarre legal limbo as "provisional appointments." Dysfunction is too kind a word to describe the madness and chaos that ensues from applying civil service rules to the non-public safety work force.

Three states -- Georgia, Florida, and Texas -- have eliminated civil service for all but public safety with positive results. Virtually all other states provide only bonus points rather than absolute preference. Both are good ideas.

The civil service laws that govern public sector hiring in Massachusetts are broken. Taking a look at how other states are dealing with this issue would go a long way toward telling us how to fix them. It's time we got to work.

John O'Leary is the former chairman of the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission.



© Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
 

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I just hope the folks up on the hill find it interesting enough to actually look into this mess and start correcting it. Civil Service has been a major cluster %uck for years, this is nothing new but it is nice that someone put it to ink for the rest of the Commonwealth to view and realize just how messed up the testing procedure is for Massachusetts public safety.
 

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I wonder if it will change much in the text 2-3 exam cycles, thats when I will be home to take it. The Civil Service System has been getting such bad press for so long you would think some1 would notice it.
 

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That article sums it up wonderfully. After scoring 100% on the exam in '99 I'm still waiting for the call up. Now I'm waiting here in Florida, doing the job, and getting a tan. Civil Service is #$%@&*# !!!
 

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I just heard today that quite a few departments in MA will abolish Civil Service. Hopedale did a few months ago and now i hear Billerica might do so also. It will be interesting to see. If that happens, don't expect a job unless you have a Master's Degree in CJ and a FT Academy. Thats the standard for alot of the non-civil service departments now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It isn't "required" but there are a rash of self-sponsors out there with 4 year + degrees right out of college. However, the way the academies have been floating everyone, there hasn't even been a chance for many self-sponsors to go to the academy.
 

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I'll make it on my experience, and oral and written expression skills.
:shock:
Did I forget to mention I'm a DVET?
:twisted:

Ahhhhhh.Who cares anyway?
 

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I here ya MITPO, i scored a 99 and i to am waiting for the call. I just hope the situation gets better (civil circus & self sponsor/ academy spots) and not worse so i atleast have a fighting chance in 2 years when i get out. i have a few friends that got hired at the 1st/2nd PD they interviewed w/ at 19 YO, and i have seen people that spend 10 years trying to get hired. I feel i fit right in the middle and it could go either way. My education (or lack there of) is really killing me
 

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Very interesting article! The good news is that more and more people who have been FU%KED over on Police and Fire Civil Circus Lists continue to appeal their rankings, sue their respective appointing authorities & win jobs that they should have had years ago! :D Three different groups (including 2 small groups totalling 10 who just graduated from the Boston Fire Academy in June) have now successfully sued the Boston Fire Department and won their jobs over the past year WITH BACKPAY and SENIORITY. The lawyer who handled those appeals is also suing the Boston Police under the same arguments and has met with some success! Everyone keep your head up: this biased & archaic system will inevitably be changed after more & more cities/towns continue to lose decision after decision and more importantly, $$$$$. That's when we'll all see the change!
 

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I have posted on this before.
I was one of the folks who scored 100 or better on that exam and nothing.
I made it thru a portion of the process and then budget cuts killed it.
I couldn't get a hold of my background investigator and was told that the group of Detectives doing the backgrounds were pulled to do other things.
That was the last thing i heard.
No money no class, but 2 classes were sent off that list and my 100 is gone forever. The whole thing is just discouraging to me.
Well thats civil circus for ya. I used to get mad about it but thats life. :roll:
 

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Before any more rumors break out... Billerica removed their police secretaries from civil service status, not their patrol line. Article passed at Town Meeting and was forwarded to the House for approval.

I don't see a moderate-sized civil service department, with a civil service chief, to jump ship anytime soon. There is just too much to lose from the top on down.
 
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