Massachusetts Cop Forum banner

1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
9 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Mass has the unusual system of "strong" chiefs (41/97) and "weak" chiefs" (41/97A). Yet I am having a heck of a time finding a resource that clearly defines the difference. Does anyone know of one? Thanks!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
66 Posts
I don't have a clear understanding of it but I believe the difference is who has direct control of the department. The strong Chief has appointing authority, the ability to remove for cause and developes appropriate rules and regs for the department. A weak Chief has to defer these duties to the Board of Selectmen.

The General Law governing Fire Chiefs (MGL 48, sec 42) seems a little clearer.

You may be able to get a thorough definition from Pat Rogers or John Sheft. The only other place you might be able to find the matter discussed may be in town meeting records of communities that have dealt with this issue.

Good luck, if I find something I will forward it to you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
456 Posts
Since my first chief was a "strong chief" and our current chief is a "weak chief", I'll give a shot at defining what I know about it from a practical viewpoint. My first chief was a close personal friend, so he was the source of some of this practical info.

Strong Chief:
- Once appointed, in effect the appointment is for life. He has total control of the department and can only be removed for a very short list of egregious acts (e.g. felony convictions, etc.).

Weak Chief:
- Is appointed to a set term of office (per MGL can't be >3 years, but often times if the boss loves him, they ignore the law) and must get his contract renewed on a regular basis to keep the job. Reports to Selectmen or Town/City Manager/Administrator. He can be removed from his position for just about any reason that they can think of (just like in a regular job outside of gov't, aka "employee at will")! Generally it is easy to spot a Weak Chief due to propensity in having a brown nose, frequently seen following 10 steps behind their boss at any public meeting/function. and they are usually "unavailable" as they are always either on the phone with their boss or sitting in their boss' office meeting to discuss every little detail of running the department.

Needless to say, towns/cities really hate having a Strong Chief, as they lose the ability to micro-manage that person and department.
 

·
Thread Killa
Joined
·
6,056 Posts
Term limits are set for both at a max of <3 years unless the department covered under the rules as found in chapter 31 (civil service)

I think th e REAL difference is that in one situation if the chief makes a up a department rule, those rules automatically go into effect after 30 days, if no selectmen have input.
In the other instance the rules ONLY go into effect after input from the selectmen.

Now to that end wouldn't a civil service position be a "strong" position and any department that isn't civil service be a weak department...and then falling under that non civil service departments there would be the strong and weak departments?

I would liken this to a "strong" or "weak" mayor / town manager type of situation. One requires approval for every little thing, one can set certain direction of a given department.

LenS";p="52911 said:
Since my first chief was a "strong chief" and our current chief is a "weak chief", I'll give a shot at defining what I know about it from a practical viewpoint. My first chief was a close personal friend, so he was the source of some of this practical info.

Strong Chief:
- Once appointed, in effect the appointment is for life. He has total control of the department and can only be removed for a very short list of egregious acts (e.g. felony convictions, etc.).

Weak Chief:
- Is appointed to a set term of office (per MGL can't be >3 years, but often times if the boss loves him, they ignore the law) and must get his contract renewed on a regular basis to keep the job. Reports to Selectmen or Town/City Manager/Administrator. He can be removed from his position for just about any reason that they can think of (just like in a regular job outside of gov't, aka "employee at will")! Generally it is easy to spot a Weak Chief due to propensity in having a brown nose, frequently seen following 10 steps behind their boss at any public meeting/function. and they are usually "unavailable" as they are always either on the phone with their boss or sitting in their boss' office meeting to discuss every little detail of running the department.

Needless to say, towns/cities really hate having a Strong Chief, as they lose the ability to micro-manage that person and department.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
456 Posts
SOT,

That might explain it!

The Strong Chief that we had was Civil Service.

Our current chief was NOT appointed under Civil Service. [Our PD went off CS for a number of years and is now back on it. But CS didn't come back until after the current chief was appointed.]
 

·
Subscribing Member
Joined
·
2,201 Posts
Being a strong chief does not give the authority to appoint anyone, nor does it give a life long appointment, its is by contract just a weak chief. I know because I worked for a strong chief and the selectboard refused to appoint people he wanted to hire at first, but being the persuasive type he is he made an argument they could refuse. Point is that he could not just appoint us. Second he had a contract and did not have life long appointment.
 

·
Subscribing Member
Joined
·
1,169 Posts
I think that as long as an elected body is the appointing authority there will never be a true strong chief. If an elected body is involved, heavily, in the appointment process politics shall rule not qualifications or experience.
 

·
Subscribing Member
Joined
·
569 Posts
The only difference between strong and weak chiefs is that the strong chief has control of the departmental operations i.e. scheduling, personnel, facilities, rules, policies, etc. In a weak chief situation, a selectboard can dictate some of those things, if they so choose. The chief is not the appointing authority in either case.

The reality of it is this...regardless of the designation, we are all at the mercy of the board of selectmen. If a board does not get along with a "strong chief", they just wait until the end of the employment contract and say, "Thanks chief, but we have voted not to renew your contract". :roll:
 

·
Chapter 90 Enforcer
Joined
·
3,299 Posts
chief801 is right. Regardless of their appointment, they are still at the mercy of the Selectman. There are fewer and fewer towns that have civil circus chiefs.... but either way, their future rides on whether or not the board accepts their performance. The only real difference is the appointing authority of Officers -- but to be honest, currently I don't know of any town that does not have its Officers appointed by selectman.
 

·
Subscribing Member
Joined
·
2,201 Posts
The appointing authority of officers is not different. The selectboard is the appointing authority. I know because a former strong chief I worked hired a few officers and the selectboard would not appoint them.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
22 Posts
These are more examples of why Civil Service is important for police officers.

I am by no means saying Civil Service does not have it's flaws, but it is certainly better than a police chief making his decision's based upon his popularity with the Board of Selectman.

Let's have the Chiefs worry about other things than if the Board of Selectmen isn't happy they won't get their contract renewed !

[fade]
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
Being a strong chief does not give the authority to appoint anyone, nor does it give a life long appointment, its is by contract just a weak chief. I know because I worked for a strong chief and the selectboard refused to appoint people he wanted to hire at first, but being the persuasive type he is he made an argument they could refuse. Point is that he could not just appoint us. Second he had a contract and did not have life long appointment.
Macop, please refer to MGL 48 Section 42 copied below.... You will find that the Ma Strong Chief Law for Fire DOES give appointing authority to a Stong Chief and specifically states "shall have full and absolute authority in the administration of the department", opposed to Section 42A which addresses Weak Chiefs where they are not an appointing authority and bound more to the instruction and orders of the Select Board who may "make suitable regulations governing the fire department and the officers and firemen thereof." Additionally, Strong Fire Chief's are technically appointed for life similar to those who are appointed under Civil Service. An employment contract for a Strong Chief vs a Weak Chief is specifically for compensation and benefits with the exception of those communities that have a population under 5000 (also listed in the law below). The community does not have to renew a contract; however, they also cannot just remove the Chief without Cause.

Section 42: Establishment of fire departments; appointment of fire chief; compensation; removal; powers and duties

Section 42. Towns accepting the provisions of this section and sections forty-three and forty-four, or which have accepted corresponding provisions of earlier laws may establish a fire department to be under the control of an officer to be known as the chief of the fire department. The chief shall be appointed by the selectmen, and shall receive such salary as the selectmen may from time to time determine, not exceeding in the aggregate the amount annually appropriated therefor. He may be removed for cause by the selectmen at any time after a hearing. He shall have charge of extinguishing fires in the town and the protection of life and property in case of fire. He shall purchase subject to the approval of the selectmen and keep in repair all property and apparatus used for and by the fire department. He shall have and exercise all the powers and discharge all the duties conferred or imposed by statute upon engineers in towns except as herein provided, and shall appoint a deputy chief and such officers and firemen as he may think necessary, and may remove the same at any time for cause and after a hearing. He shall have full and absolute authority in the administration of the department, shall make all rules and regulations for its operation, shall report to the selectmen from time to time as they may require, and shall annually report to the town the condition of the department with his recommendations thereon; he shall fix the compensation of the permanent and call members of the fire department subject to the approval of the selectmen. In the expenditure of money the chief shall be subject to such further limitations as the town may from time to time prescribe. The appointment of the chief of the fire department in any town or district having a population of five thousand or less may be for a period of three years.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,356 Posts
Macop, please refer to MGL 48 Section 42 copied below.... You will find that the Ma Strong Chief Law for Fire DOES give appointing authority to a Stong Chief and specifically states "shall have full and absolute authority in the administration of the department", opposed to Section 42A which addresses Weak Chiefs where they are not an appointing authority and bound more to the instruction and orders of the Select Board who may "make suitable regulations governing the fire department and the officers and firemen thereof." Additionally, Strong Fire Chief's are technically appointed for life similar to those who are appointed under Civil Service. An employment contract for a Strong Chief vs a Weak Chief is specifically for compensation and benefits with the exception of those communities that have a population under 5000 (also listed in the law below). The community does not have to renew a contract; however, they also cannot just remove the Chief without Cause.

Section 42: Establishment of fire departments; appointment of fire chief; compensation; removal; powers and duties

Section 42. Towns accepting the provisions of this section and sections forty-three and forty-four, or which have accepted corresponding provisions of earlier laws may establish a fire department to be under the control of an officer to be known as the chief of the fire department. The chief shall be appointed by the selectmen, and shall receive such salary as the selectmen may from time to time determine, not exceeding in the aggregate the amount annually appropriated therefor. He may be removed for cause by the selectmen at any time after a hearing. He shall have charge of extinguishing fires in the town and the protection of life and property in case of fire. He shall purchase subject to the approval of the selectmen and keep in repair all property and apparatus used for and by the fire department. He shall have and exercise all the powers and discharge all the duties conferred or imposed by statute upon engineers in towns except as herein provided, and shall appoint a deputy chief and such officers and firemen as he may think necessary, and may remove the same at any time for cause and after a hearing. He shall have full and absolute authority in the administration of the department, shall make all rules and regulations for its operation, shall report to the selectmen from time to time as they may require, and shall annually report to the town the condition of the department with his recommendations thereon; he shall fix the compensation of the permanent and call members of the fire department subject to the approval of the selectmen. In the expenditure of money the chief shall be subject to such further limitations as the town may from time to time prescribe. The appointment of the chief of the fire department in any town or district having a population of five thousand or less may be for a period of three years.
This thread is so old it just got it's learner's permit. This has to be a new record.
 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
Top