NORTH ADAMS — The North Adams Police Department wants out of the Civil Service, alleging that the program is too restricting during the hiring process.
The city has begun the multistep process to withdraw from the state's Civil Service, which aims to ensure that qualified candidates are hired for public openings based on merit but has frustrated local departments.
In the absence of Civil Service — and the exam that determines the pool of available candidates to hire — the city would work to "define an appropriate candidate recruitment and promotion system," Mayor Thomas Bernard told The Eagle on Thursday.
"The main difference would be who administers the test," Bernard said. "I think we can put together a system that is as good, if not better, than what Civil Service offers."
The proposal will be heard Tuesday by the City Council, which could opt to vote on it that night or send it to committee for further review.
Town Meeting members in Adams approved the town's withdrawal request last year, after its police cited similar complaints with the system.
In a letter outlining his qualms with Civil Service this week, North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio described how the system limits the pool of available candidates and overemphasizes a written exam administered through the state Human Resources Division.
"Going through the system, calling for the list, it's not that that's inherently a bad process, because it's worked for decades in the Commonwealth," Bernard said. "The issue sometimes is the time frame of list availability because of the scheduling on their tests."
The role of the multiple-choice exam should be limited, Cozzaglio argued.
"Once the exam has been given and the resulting list established, police departments are restricted to hiring and promoting from those candidates grouped at the top of the list," Cozzaglio wrote.
Withdrawing from Civil Service would also allow the city to set its own preferences when hiring. For example, Bernard said, it could decide to prioritize a background in military service.
If given the green light by the City Council. the withdrawal would also require approval from the Legislature. Bernard said he has been in contact with the offices of Sen. Adam Hinds and Rep. John Barrett III, and both are willing to file the legislation on the city's behalf.
Bernard included specific legislative language in the proposal, which was reviewed by the city's labor counsel and mirrors what Adams submitted.
The department's union of officers was consulted before the proposal was formalized and is also on board. Union members will be grandfathered in and retain their protections under Civil Service.
"Going forward it will be extremely important that we enlist the aid of our officers in designing the hiring and promotion systems that will replace civil service," Cozzaglio wrote.
Adam Shanks can be reached at email@example.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.