SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 12, 2014

Our view: Time to take chiefs out of civil service

(Continued)

That’s true. But it is also true that much of those command and leadership problems occurred while those departments were part of a civil service system that made it difficult, if not impossible, to make needed, timely changes.

And removing the city from civil service doesn’t mean an internal candidate won’t get the job, as evidenced by Beverly’s hiring of longtime officer Mark Ray as police chief in 2007.

Proponents of civil service say it protects police and fire chiefs from political pressure or the whims of a capricious mayor. But those protections exist outside civil service. Beverly, for example, has its police chief under contract. And if citizens don’t like the way the mayor is managing the public safety departments, they have the power to make a change at the ballot box.

The civil service system is 130 years old and has long outlived its usefulness. The city needs the flexibility to hire the best person for the job — not simply the best person in the room.

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