Civil service exams weeds out nepotism

We were shocked to learn that the North Adams, Mass. Police Department would no longer use the civil service exam in seeking recruits. That sounded rather un-American.

But the reasons given for the change by the North Adams Police Chief Michael Cazzaglia as reported in the Berkshire Eagle, made some sense. Decrying “the emphasis civil service places on the written, multiple choice exams — without taking into account factors such as former military service, ability in Spanish or other foreign languages or college education. “You can be extremely intelligent but lack a whole lot of common sense,” Cazzaglio said.

Gloversville Police Chief Mark Porter responded to a query with a phone call. He did not disagree with his colleague’s criticism, but said accredited police departments like Gloversville are legally bound to accept the civil service system which he finds fair and equitable. However, once a candidate reaches him, a psychological test is given to weed out biases and character weaknesses. Then onto the police academy for severe practical training which can further eliminate unacceptable candidates. Finally, rookies on the force are scrutinized to ensure they can handle the stresses of the job. All of which is meant to prevent one of these national tragedies where a cop kills a citizen unjustly.

The beauty of the civil service exam is to prevent the nepotism of hiring relatives or just those loyal to a chief and not the community and thus create an armed gang. But no police chief can ignore civil service requirements unless the city votes to dispense with them. In which case, they would open themselves up to many angry lawsuits.