Tag Archives: union promotions banding civil service

Some Revealing But Inaccurate Comments On Banding In Today’s Boston Globe Article

Today’s Boston Globe has an article about the banding controversy.  You can find the article here.  Several of the comments in the article not only are inaccurate but also revealing.  The Mass. Chiefs want more leeway in promotions:

 “It’s no different than the private sector,” said A. Wayne Sampson, a retired Shrewsbury chief and executive director of the Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association. “There are a lot more factors involved in picking part of your command staff than just the ranking of the test.”

The civil service system is not supposed to be like the private sector.  In the private sector, you can hire whoever you want for a job, provided you don’t discriminate in some illegal way (race, age, gender, handicap, etc.).  You want to give your brother-in-law the vacant position in Sales, no problem.  Your old high school chum is out of work and you want to help him out, be my guest.  In the private sector, you only answer to the owners of the enterprise.  In 1885, Massachusetts became the second state (New York was first a year earlier) to implement a civil service system.  The goal was to eliminate cronyism, favoritism, and especially political considerations from hiring and promotion in the public sector.  Sadly, some police chiefs apparently prefer to turn the clock back to the 19th century.

Some also believe, inaccurately, that banding will allow for greater diversity:

The move could also help chiefs diversify their command staff. Over the years, many department leaders have complained that the civil service exam was a stumbling block for minorities trying to move up.

“If [a minority candidate] were somewhere in the middle and someone else was slightly ahead of them, that’s the factor you could use,” said Brockton Police Chief William Conlon, whose department has no minorities in supervisor positions. “The department does need diversity.”

While diversity is undoubtedly a worthwhile goal not only in police departments but in all professions, banding does not necessarily lead to that result.  If Chief Conlon intends to select a minority candidate over others within a band solely on the basis of race, he will be violating civil service precedent as well as state and federal discrimination law.  In MAMLEO v. Abban,  the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court rejected the Boston Police Department’s efforts to promote sergeants solely on the basis of a desire to improve racial diversity.  Only where a court has found a history of discrimination and entered a remedial order can a police department use race as a factor in promotion decisions.

Ironically, historians have noted that civil service systems have worked to promote diversity, not stifle it:

 “One consequence of U.S. civil service policy has been to provide a notable route for upward mobility, especially for women and blacks. “ 

U.S. History Encyclopedia, cited in http://www.answers.com/topic/civil-service.

Today’s Globe article, perhaps unwittingly, explains why our clients, Massachusetts Coalition of Police and Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, have undertaken the effort to restore whole number numerical scoring to the promotional examinations.