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Massachusetts Study: Continued Utility of Civil Service for the Chief's Position

NCJ Number
THE POLICE CHIEF Volume: 77 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2010 Pages: 106-108,110
Alice E. Perry
Date Published
August 2010
4 pages
Based on a survey of police chiefs in Massachusetts, this article examines respondents' attitudes about the continued utility of civil service for the chief's position and the associated issue of when leadership training should begin.
Civil service, whether it is State or local, provides job security in the midst of political changes and patronage. In order to hire police officers in Massachusetts, cities and towns that use the civil service system must use the "rule of three." This rule requires that the appointing authority select the candidate from the top three scores on the civil service examination. If a decision is made to bypass a name on the list, the appointing authority must justify the decision. Of the 100 police chiefs returning useable survey responses (out of 350 receiving the questionnaire), 41 percent favored removing the chief's position from civil service; 33 percent favored keeping the chief's position in civil service. The article notes that the real issue is whether the civil service system provides the best leaders for the chief's position. Police chiefs must have the ability to lead, motivate, and train officers moving up the ranks. This officer training and education must be completed with increasingly smaller budgets and with the knowledge that lawsuits against municipalities and police departments continue to rise and show no signs of abating. A critical element of the survey was to determine when leadership training should begin. Fifty-one percent of the respondents favored beginning leadership training at the academy. Most of the chiefs held the view that the law enforcement field would be best served with a diversely educated workforce. 3 figures and 12 notes