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Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company
The Boston Globe

December 2, 2004, Thursday THIRD EDITION

EDITORIAL; Pg. A18

466 words


CIVIL SERVICE HANDCUFFS

THE BOSTON Police Department could hire more strategically, promote from within more intelligently, and maintain better internal discipline if it were freed from the restrictions of civil service. Once a protection against vindictive managers and cronyism in hiring, the civil service system is now an impediment to progress.


Boston's Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole rightly sees the combination of the civil service examination and veterans' preference rules as a barrier to hiring minority officers or candidates with foreign language skills. So long as the city's 30-year-old quota for hiring minorities remained in effect, there was enough flexibility to create a representative urban police force. But a federal court overturned the policy last week, raising legitimate concerns that continued reliance on the civil service system could lead again to one of the great failures in urban policing - a nearly all-white police force that is viewed as an occupying force in minority neighborhoods.


The basic civil service examination measures a candidate's reading and math abilities, important for tasks associated with police work. But it doesn't measure communication skills and judgment. The civil service promotional exams for sergeant, lieutenant, and captain are also flawed. The tests are heavy on textbook knowledge with little in the way of job simulations. Also, on-the-job experience gets lost in the hiring process. In Boston the promotion system rewards officers on injured leave or working at desk assignments with more study time. Creative and energetic colleagues get passed over.


The negative effects of civil service don't stop in the test room. The five-member Civil Service Commission often reduces or overturns just punishments imposed by police supervisors for infractions ranging from conduct unbecoming an officer to striking a handcuffed prisoner. Holding officers accountable for use of force becomes especially difficult with a Civil Service Commission that tips in favor of police unions.


O'Toole is looking for ways to mitigate civil service strictures. One possibility might be to give veterans an agreed-upon number of points for service rather than pushing them to the top of the hiring list. Another might be to consider all candidates within a band of acceptable scores, leaving the final hiring decisions to assessments of work ethic, judgment, and experience. Either would be vastly better than the current system. But the best outcome would be for Boston to design its own test and file legislation to rid itself of civil service.


Slightly more than half the police departments in Massachusetts have evolved beyond civil service. There is no good reason why Boston should still be stuck in this tar pit of testing.



December 2, 2004
 

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GAH!!! just when you thought there was sanity creeping into this slice of law enforcement cake they go and throw LOGIC into the mix... yeeesh... yea civil service is a joke, but its a means to get moderately intelligent applicants into the mix right off the bat (well, the 100 scorers anyway)... they're only doing this because now that affirmative action is gone they KNOW that 60% of the people they would have hired to fill minority spots would never make it to the application process...
ehhhhhhhhhh im suddenly thinking they should have just left well enough alone and left me my singular hope to work where i wanted to instead of adding one more dept. to worry about qualifying for...
 

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Hey fixxer just because someone gets 100 on a civil service test doesnt mean crap as far as intellegence or anything else.
 

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On the surface, getting rid of civil service seems like a good idea, but being in Massachusetts, this scares me a little bit. I'd be worried about the political favors and nepotism being passed around to the extreme. I'd feel bad for the little guy, who'd be a great cop, who without civil service would have absolutley no chance what so ever to get hired, because he has no political connections.
 

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On the surface, getting rid of civil service seems like a good idea, but being in Massachusetts, this scares me a little bit. I'd be worried about the political favors and nepotism being passed around to the extreme. I'd feel bad for the little guy, who'd be a great cop, who without civil service would have absolutley no chance what so ever to get hired, because he has no political connections.
Yeh, because politcal connections mean nothing now. :roll: :roll:
 

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PearlOnyx @ Fri 03 Dec said:
On the surface, getting rid of civil service seems like a good idea, but being in Massachusetts, this scares me a little bit. I'd be worried about the political favors and nepotism being passed around to the extreme. I'd feel bad for the little guy, who'd be a great cop, who without civil service would have absolutley no chance what so ever to get hired, because he has no political connections.
On the other side of that coin, you have people who would be great cops, but get one or two math questions wrong on civil service and never get a chance. Hiring based on training, experience and background checks will normally yield the most qualified applicants. Being a good "test taker" doesn't guarantee a good cop!! The problem with Boston PD's reasoning, is they aren't looking to recruit the "best of the best", they are trying to beef up minorities on the force, which if hiring based on race alone becomes the norm will be worse than civil service (just ask Miami or New Orleans PD's).
 

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I agree to a point and to a certain point of the process. But Civil service has saved many of jobs and got back many a jobs for Police officers, who were fired or about to be.
 

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One of the problems with "civil service" is that it protects the innocent and the guilty...it's very difficult to get rid of the "bad apples". It does, however, provide a standard against which to measure prospective candidates.

Math, science and written/spoken communication are intrinsic to the make-up of a successful police officer.

Perhaps a two step test involving part "A": the written test, and part "B": the assessment center, would provide a more rounded candidate. But it has to be color/gender blind.

We need the best...not a multicultural "politically correct" wet dream! I want the best backing me, and if that means the best are 90% chinese, or black, white or Metalunan, that's fine! A police department does not have to "look like" it's community...it merely has to serve the rule of law.

Anything else is racist.
 

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Ok, just some random thoughts; perhaps it would be a good idea to get rid of Civil Service. I'm on a department with Civil Service, I also got the job (as a reserve first) without having any connections at all.

My concern, based on my currently being deployed in Baghdad, is this; what happens to guys like me on return? Where are the safeguards that our jobs will be there? What happens if your suddenly thrown into some type of situation with supervisors, are you going to sit and hope the union helps you out?

I thik that the the main reason Boston has trouble attracting minority applicants remain the deep seated beliefs of many that, as much as I love the place, it is still a racially divided city. Many potential applicants look at the 'old guard' and simply don't want to put up with them.
 

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I have a sneaking suspicion that those who oppose the "civil service" hierarchy are not "civil service" persons...

Just a hypothesis...
 

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One of the problems with "civil service" is that it protects the innocent and the guilty...it's very difficult to get rid of the "bad apples". It does, however, provide a standard against which to measure prospective candidates.

Math, science and written/spoken communication are intrinsic to the make-up of a successful police officer.

Perhaps a two step test involving part "A": the written test, and part "B": the assessment center, would provide a more rounded candidate. But it has to be color/gender blind.
DCS, the civil service written test is not a test of intelligence or aptitude like the SAT or similar tests--at least in its present form. (Please recall the plethora of typos, grammatical mistakes...etc) Second of all, if they want to test intelligence maybe they should take a peek at the SAT, GMAT or LSAT and model it after one of those.

have a sneaking suspicion that those who oppose the "civil service" hierarchy are not "civil service" persons... Just a hypothesis...
Of course that's correct...it's human nature! Sometimes when one attains a goal, they forget the 'trials and tribulations' him/her endured to attain that goal. Many of those who already recieve civil service protection either don't care (it sounds bad....but it's natural) or forget how hard it was to get there. (Please do not infer veterans from that statement...we all know and appreciate what they went to through to get there.)

There are plenty of other states that provide excellent representation/protection for their officers, but have hiring practices that give the job to the best possible candidate.
 

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In my opinon, this test is easy, and someone who does not pass it in the 90's should not be a Police Officer period
EXACTLY wouldn't it be more meaningful if it was at least slightly harder or more effective in testing intelligence and reasoning skills.
 

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In my opinon, this test is easy, and someone who does not pass it in the 90's should not be a Police Officer period.
Wow...no one has made me this mad in awhile...

Ok, first and foremost scoring in the 90s is great and the people that don't get it...too bad, not my problem.

But think about this. There are some people that for the life of them will never score in the 90s because of learning disabilities or difficulty taking standardized tests.

So be a little bit more open minded. I have never scored in the 90s on any of the tests I've taken, but I'm on a few lists and still in great running for CSP. I know it's no the same as MSP or even Civil Service...but some people do not test well, but they can talk well.

Written testing is just one way to test a person's skills...a person could be absolutly horrible at testing but be a great cop.

My uncle has a friend who was a retired officer from Greenwich CT who took the most recent Greenwich test to become a part-timer....according to my uncle he was one of the best cops he knew and was great at his job...but he FAILED the written.

So try not to be as close-minded as you are - That goes to EVERYONE who said that people that don't score in the 90s shouldn't be officers. You just all made me sick. Thanks.

PS...So if you get an 88 on the test, and then 2pts for being a veteran, does that count as a 90 in your eyes, or should they not be officers either?
 

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Civil service allowed me to get my job. Yes I was one of those people who did score a 100. I also graduated top of my class at the police academy with a 98 average. "No brag just fact". Sorry I had to put that in there. A member of this board throws it in when ever he is plugging himself or his agency. :lol:
I agree the civil service tests are flawed. However, I do think that they insure that our police officers can read and write and add 2+2. The promotional exams do nothing but show you who can memorize text. They should be more experience and law based. The PAT. should be part of the civil service process. This would allow some people that might not be great test takers make up some ground. The PAT that we have now is useless. I personally know several women who could not do the wall but were in great shape and could have passed the cooper standards. On the same note half of the men I went through the academy with were in piss poor shape on graduation day never mind on day 1. Keep civil service, just re-work it.
 

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In this day and age, being able to take a test is a basic skill, akin to reading and writing. If no written test, then what? An oral board? I just know there'd be no bias or politics exercised there! So a person doesn't do well on a standardized written test...what about those who don't do well at testing in another format?

I don't have a horse in this race...well, indirectly I do: I'd have to work with a person unable to master a simple test. I'm not willing to place my life in jeopardy to serve some perverted form of "fairness". The test is not difficult: I scored a 99 on the civil and a 98 on the state, and I'm no Einstein. This isn't rocket science. As someone already said, it is a test of BASIC skills, not intelligence. And, yes, math does count...an eighth grader could pass the math portion of the test! :evil:

Everyone wants to trash civil service, but no one has suggested what to replace it with. Perhaps we could just have the wannabes assemble at Fleet Center, throw them a bunch of swords, and the survivors could attend the academy! :twisted:

I suggested a two part test above: written and assessment center...but I guess everybody would rather flame than discuss the options.

This is real life, not some idealized "fair" trip through the Elysian Fields that Miss Rottencrotch promised you when you were in the fourth grade. :wink:

Posted Sat 04 Dec, 2004:

Topcop,

"The sons of Will Sonnet", Walter Brennans tagline: "No Brag, just fact". 8)
 
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