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Reading TM Votes to Withdraw from Civil Service Process for Future Police Officers

Several Town Meeting members disagreed strongly.

After hearing from the Chief of and the presidents of the two police unions, Town Meeting voted Monday night to withdraw from the Civil Service process, moving the hiring, promoting and disciplining of future police officers and superior officers up to the town.

Town Meeting spent just under an hour on the Civil Service question. Police Chief James Cormier and Sergeant Richard Abate, president of the superior officers’ association and Officer Chris Picco, president of the patrolmen’s association, along with Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner, strongly recommended that the town withdraw from the Civil Service system.

Several Town Meeting members strongly disagreed.

The Civil Service process is cumbersome, time-consuming, expensive, doesn’t meet the town’s needs and is “broken,” Hechenbleikner said. Civil Service had its place – in 1918, he said. Today, laws cover issues -- like conflict of interest – that the Civil Service system was established to prevent.

Cormier described the system as a “hindrance” to the operation of the Reading Police Department. The town doesn’t receive the results of Civil Service tests for six months, for example, he said, and if the local department wants to select anyone but the top scorer on the test, the department must justify its decision with a negative evaluation of the person with the higher test score. When labor disputes arise, he said, labor contracts now cover resolving them. Fellow chiefs speak about getting out of Civil Service, he said.

Civil Service doesn’t offer officers job protection, according to Abate. His union worked out promotion language with the chief, he said.

The system is better without Civil Service, agreed Picco.

Town Meeting member Nancy Docktor argued that Town Meeting was opening itself up to corruption and a watered-down candidate pool without Civil Service. She said she called 10 communities around Reading and none were considering getting out of Civil Service. She also questioned how many Reading officers support the proposal.

Town Meeting member Jack Downing asked why 80 to 90 percent of officers in eastern Massachusetts are still covered by Civil Service and whether removing Reading from the Civil Service system would discourage those officers from coming to Reading.

Most police departments are going through the same process we are, Cormier replied; removing the Civil Service system would make Reading more attractive to candidates who want to join its police force.

Town Meeting will continue Thursday evening.

Joe Veno April 26, 2012 at 12:32 AM
SMS i DO NOT assume that i have more knowledge than anyone else on this issue. You are assuming I am saying that. What I am saying is I have worked in the system and I know far better than you how BOTH systems work. Reaing Police officers are the finest in the area.
SMS April 26, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Ok Joe. Like you said You know far better than me. I will let you go with that.
Karl Weld April 26, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Joe, settle down. I was making a comment that our unions support the switch. I wasn't making any claim that you said otherwise. Just because I reply to your comment doesn't mean I am accusing you of misrepresentation or saying things you didn't. I was simply relaying what was said at Town Meeting by those most involved: the Chief, the Town Manager and the presidents of the unions.
Joe Veno April 26, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Karl I am not upset. I read it also. I realize the unions supported it. But I also know it was a very close vote. But so be it. Several people who have spoke to me thought ALL the Officers were in favor of it. My information is they were not all in favor of it.
G and D April 26, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Well said.
G and D April 26, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Don't agree Joe. Different times we are living in. Need to trust the people that have been doing the job.
G and D April 26, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Joe, who cares about what the neighboring towns are doing. Have some faith and go get your gun license if you are that concerned.
G and D April 26, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Totally agree with you on this one.
G and D April 26, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Jim, we are all at will employees. We live in a world where people want to hurt this great country and your worried about cops finding "jobs".Unfortuanately crime is the gift that keeps on giving. Plenty of work for good cops.
Kevin April 26, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Ive got a question and am actually suprised that I havent read anything about it. I understand why cause its about the PD, but anyone care to know what the OTHER public safety department in town and its leadership and union feels about this move? The Fire Department is JUST AS important in town as the Police, but yet it sounds as if the FD will remain under the same civil service hiring practices that the town just got rid of for the PD. Why? Wouldnt you want a qualified, fit for Reading Firefighter/Paramedic too? Nowhere in the article nor in the comments here does this question even come up. Did it at TM? Im curious
JIM April 26, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Hmm, sounds like somebodys Brother, Son, Brother In-law or political contributor couldn't pass the civil service test. It will be interesting to see who the new hires or promotions will be. There are many fine Police officers who were hired with a "only" a High School education. Having a College Degree will not automatically make one a better Police Officer.
Ed April 27, 2012 at 12:16 PM
The repercussions of this decision will not be felt for ten years. Civil Service protects the employee from a weak Chief that will not stand up to the appointing authority to protect his men. With the Chief's job going out of Civil Service, the next Chief will be worried about his own job and not his men. Politcs will slowly infiltrate every personnel decision, and cops will think twice in the street before they act. With all the veterans coming back from overseas they will use the non civil service job as a stepping stone for a civil service job. No cop wants to work for a non civil service police department. The turnover means inexperience in the street and that is a costly problem for joe taxpayer.
Jack April 27, 2012 at 12:40 PM
I agree with you Ed. The present gang is lining their pockets with gold and will never have to work under the new rules. They are leaving nothing for the next generation of cops. They are simply to greedy or to stupid to understand what they did!
Bob April 27, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Greed is good!
JIM April 27, 2012 at 01:56 PM
What did the town giving the unions in order for them to support this? Did the majority of Officers vote to accept this? I heard otherwise.
Hank April 27, 2012 at 07:33 PM
$$$$$$$........If getting rid of Civil Serivce is such a great idea then why didn't the Unions give up their own Civil Service Status for more money?
Joe Veno April 27, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Ed, You are correct on almost all of your statments. But It will have repercussions a lot sooner than then years. I have been told that all promotions will no longer be under Civil Service also.
Nancy Docktor April 28, 2012 at 12:11 PM
To respond to Kevin's question, TM briefly mentioned the fire dept status . Their contract is up this summer and we have to assume they were watching the outcome of Article 11 very closely. Both police unions voted in favor of passing Article 11,it passed by one vote. It was packaged with their contract, along with the attractive and highly controversial Quinn Bill reimbursement. The officers I polled,from both unions, acknowledged it would not have passed on its own. The unions would have gained nothing it voted on alone. The Mass Municipal Association, along with politicians from both parties have stated that "serve first" dept such as police and fire should remain exempt from removal from Civil Service. That being said,an overwhelming majority of TM voted in favor of Article 11 so we must accept and watch how it plays out. I would urge all Reading residents ,including the writers to this thread, to monitor the effects of Article 11 and report their concerns,if any,to the town. Change only occurs if we support it. Nancy Docktor
Joe Veno April 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Nancy, Are you saying the Mass Municipal Association says Police & Fire shoulld remain in Civil Service?
Nancy Docktor April 28, 2012 at 01:14 PM
According to the MMA website,the 19 bills for Legislative package for the 2009-2010 session included this comment on Civil Service Civil Service The Civil Service system no longer works for the selection and promotion of municipal employees except for police and fire personnel. I don't know how else to understand the statement but I am open to another interpretation. Nancy Docktor
Joe Veno April 28, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Nancy, Thank you, So the way I read that is. the Mass Municipal Association is in favor of Civil Service for Police and Fire.. Am I reading that right?
Bob L April 30, 2012 at 12:48 AM
It was never packaged with the Quinn Bill....Both unions already addressed the educational incentive in the prior contract!
Bill April 30, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Would a teacher go to a school System and work long term if they could never get tenure. Why would a Police Officer work in a non civil service Municipality if they are not covered by Civil Service. They would only to get experience. Then they move on! I agree with Ed and Joe.....This will cost the taxpayer a lot of money because of the turnover in training and litigation.
Joe Veno April 30, 2012 at 01:09 AM
I believe a person who takes a job on a Non-Civil-Servce department can NOT transfer to a Civil Service department. So they have no where to move on to unless it is to another Non-Civil-Service department.
Rick May 01, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Hahaha another move to try and protect the good ol' boys . Let them stay on the force after getting intoxicated and shooting a shotgun off only to have the bullet come within feet of an elderly neighbor. Why not right? Heck, why not just abandon the State guidelines for hiring new officers so that I can hire my brother in law so that we can both steal cocaine from the evidence locker and neither of us will get in trouble. Is this really what Reading needs? Reading polcie are so corrupt they work with know, violent addicts and junkies to try and rack up arrests. I was going to try and work in this district because I know what a great community Reading is, but when I learned about the history I decided against it.
Karl Weld May 01, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Um, all these officers you're talking about were hired under the Civil Service program. Maybe we'll be able to hire better now.
JIM May 01, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Or, maybe worse?
Karl Weld May 01, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Yup, but now we can't blame the Civil Service. We can hold the hiring authority responsible.
Toby May 06, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Joe....How about if thery take residence in a civil service community and take the civil serive test? In your opinion is it likely a current civil service police officer would transfer to a non civil service police department? Would that reduce the number of applicants for a position?
Joe Veno May 09, 2012 at 10:47 AM
Toby, It does not matter where they live. In my opinon I do not think a person would leave a Civil Service job to go to a non Civil Service job. .

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