Walker said the issue caused widespread concern in the police department.
“You have no idea the stress, the anxiety that’s going on in the department right now,” he said. “This is weighing heavily on a lot of people.”
Capt. Brian Gilligan said the current system had allowed Salem a string of excellent chiefs, and he objected to Driscoll saying the police and fire departments ought to be aligned with other city departments that are free to hire external candidates.
“When you’re talking about issues of use of deadly force and things of that nature, I’d say it’s a significantly different situation,” Gilligan said.
Several people who spoke at last night’s meeting said they weren’t worried about Driscoll trying to exert undue influence over their department, and Driscoll herself repeatedly said she had no problems with the current chiefs.
After the speakers were through, Councilor Arthur Sargent said that he opposed the proposal and that the current system kept cronyism out of the equation and made sure the people at the top could identify with everybody under their command.
“I believe somebody at the top should know what the guy below is going through,” he said. “You just can’t come walking in.”
Referring to Tucker’s run for representative, Councilor David Eppley suggested that any decision on the future of civil service wait until a time when the department wasn’t facing the possibility of a vacancy.
“We already have people in the pipeline who are ready to go,” Eppley said.
Last night’s meeting was to consider the mayor’s request that the council send a home rule petition to the state legislature to remove the chiefs from civil service. Councilors opted by a vote of 10 to 0 to send the matter back to the full council meeting tomorrow night with a negative recommendation.