Civil Service Upholds Medford Bypass of Candidate for Police

The Civil Service Commission upheld the bypass of a candidate for full time Police Officer by the City of Medford in MICHAEL MONAGLE, Appellant v. CITY OF MEDFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT CASE NO: G1-08-56. The City had previously bypassed the candidate for the position of firefighter but lost that appeal.

In deciding the case the Commission stated “The Commission concludes that the MPD has met its burden to establish that “sound and sufficient” reasons justify bypassing Mr. Monagle for appointment as a MPD Police Officer, supported by substantial evidence in the record and application of correct principles of law. Although the MPD was not justified to bypass Mr. Monagle solely based on his interview performance and stale criminal and driving records largely indistinguishable from those of other selected candidates, the MPD did justify its conclusion that Mr. Monagle has not reasonably satisfied the MPD that he has put behind him his past pattern of aggressive behavior in confrontational situations, as evidenced by the fight in July 2006 and his lack of candor in how he responded to the police at the scene and in his testimony.

Mr. Monagle’s Interview Performance
Although the selection process was fair to Mr. Monagle, it does not necessarily follow that MDP proved his bypass was justified by an allegedly poor interview performance. As the Findings of Fact stated, in view of the incomplete records of the interview ranking of the 2007 selected candidates, taken together with Mr. Monagle’s interview ratings of “Acceptable” or better, and the positive testimony by Capt. Clemente that Mr. Monagle gave a generally good interview (contradicting certain of his earlier statements made to HRD in justification of the bypass), the Commission agrees with the Appellant that this record is simply too inconclusive and insufficient to warrant a determination that Mr. Monagle’s interview performance adequately distinguished him from the performances of all six other candidates who bypassed him.
Mr. Monagle’s Driving & Criminal Record
The Commission also accepts the Appellant’s contention that the MPD did not establish that Mr. Monagle’s past criminal and driving record disqualifies him. As set forth in the Findings of Fact, it is hard to justify the MPD’s distinction between Mr. Monagle’s fitness as a police officer from at least three successful candidates based on their respective, similarly stale driving records. In particular, the MPD inexplicably overlooked one selected candidate’s two speeding offenses and five at-fault accidents
over an eight year period, which would appear far more problematic to the fitness to become a police officer as Mr. Monagle’s one responsible speeding violation and a total of two earlier unfounded citations for which he was found not responsible. Similarly, Mr. Monagle’s CWOF on a minor transporting alcohol charge, was the same juvenile offense committed by another successful candidate who was selected but whose record Capt. Clemente overlooked. All other criminal charges against Mr. Monagle were dismissed, most were juvenile offenses, and all of them pre-dated his undisputed honorable military service which Capt. Clemente testified was an important consideration. In sum, for reasons similar to those found persuasive in the earlier bypass of Mr. Monagle by the Medford Fire Dept., the Commission concludes that the MPD has not established by a preponderance of substantial evidence how it distinguishes Mr. Monagle’s paper record of offenses for purposes of assessing his present fitness for appointment as a police officer from the other similar records of selected candidates and how such relatively stale disciplinary records are relevant to one candidate’s present fitness to perform but not another’s. See Monagle v. City of Medford, 21 MCSR 437 (2008), citing, Halliday v. Boston Police Dep’t, 8 MCSR 45 (1997) (“Most of the motor vehicle violations occurred while the Appellant was a teenager or n his early 20s. In any event, only one violation exists within the last 5 years, and Appellant had a credible explanation of the incident.”)
Mr. Monagle’s History of Violence
The MPD’s final reason for bypassing Mr. Monagle was its concern that he had a record of involvement in multiple incidents that suggested he was inclined toward “solving problems with his fists”, which is clearly not an appropriate trait to be carrying into a career as a police officer. The credible history of such risky behavior is sufficientPolice Dep’tto justify his bypass. See, e.g., See, e.g., Preece v. Department of Correction, 20 MCSR 153 (2007), aff’d sub nom, Preece v. Massachusetts Civil Service Comm’n, Bristol C.A. BRCV2007-00510 (Mass.Sup.Ct. July 16, 2008) (credible and reliable evidence supporting the serious felony charges for which applicant was indicted, although later acquitted); Nahim v. Boston Police Dep’t, 20 MCSR 232 (2007) (assault and battery, coupled with subsequent domestic abuse restraining order and “lengthy” history of driving offenses, for which applicant failed to accept responsibility); Thames v. Boston , 17 MCSR 125 (2004) (applicant’s “extensive criminal history” and “further evidence of [violent] tendency in the statements appellant himself included in his application”); Tracy v. City of Cambridge, 13 MCSR 26 (2000)(additional evidence in form of police reports and appellant’s admissions); Lavaud v. Boston Police Dep’t, 12 MCSR 236 (1999) (multiple charges within preceding five years, including two incidents of insurance fraud and unlawful possession of and concealment of a firearm).
Mr. Monagle did provide a reasonable explanation that would seem to warrant discounting some of his past alleged violent behavior (he admitted his responsibility for getting into fist fights as a juvenile in 1994 and justified his use force in a bar fight in 1999 as self-defense). However, Mr. Monagle’s past history of verbal and physical confrontation with the MPD in 1999 following his stop and subsequent arrest on an allegedly DWI remained a legitimate red flag. No matter how unjustified Mr. Monagle believed the MPD had treated him and his younger brother, the credible evidence (including Mr. Monagle’s admissions about his behavior) demonstrated a lack of self-control and respect for law enforcement that is clearly unacceptable in a police officerwho must be expected to exercise good judgment and quick thinking so as to diffuse aggressive, confrontational situations, rather than escalate them.
The Commission does give credit to Mr. Monagle’s testimony that his military service had a positive and maturing effect on him, and has taught him the importance of responsible behavior. Indeed, had his 1999 confrontation with the MPD been the last incident, the Mr. Monagle might well have a credible explanation that his fighting days were behind him, and that incident should not stand in the way of derailing his opportunity to serve as a police officer. See Ramirez v. Springfield Police Dep’t, 10 MCSR 256 (1997) (noting that although pending bypass was justified, appointing authority may be required to provide additional reasons in any future by-pass of appellant based on the same prior criminal record to rebut appellant’s claim of subsequent rehabilitation); Radley v. Brookline Police Dep’t, 10 MCSR 289 (1997) (noting appellant’s “redeeming factors must be given added weight” and “past indiscretions should play a lessened role”)
Unfortunately, despite a positive military record and other extenuating circumstances, there exists sufficient credible evidence that, as of 2006 and 2007, Mr. Monagle still remained at risk for use of excessive force in a confrontational situation, as evidenced by the most recent fight in which he engaged in the early morning hours of July 4-5, 2006. Moreover, the evidence as a whole, including his simplistic explanation to the police that everything was “over” and his professed ignorance about details of the incident that he could reasonably be expected to know, reflects a troubling lack of responsibility and forthcoming that the MPD could rightly consider in deciding whether his was a suitable candidate for selection as a police officer. The Commission is satisfied that the MPDproperly exercised sound discretion in weighing Mr. Monagle’s questionable behavior in 1999, as reinforced by his behavior in the 2006 incident, and, despite other evidence that might suggest the contrary, was justified to reach the conclusion that Mr. Monagle presented an unacceptable risk that was unsuitable to serve as an MPD Police Officer at the time of his bypass in 2007.

In reaching this conclusion the Commission has taken into account the case law that imposes special obligations upon police officers, who carry a badge and a gun and all of the authority that accompanies them, and which requires police officers to comport themselves in an exemplary fashion, especially when it comes to exhibiting self control and to refrain from unjustified threatening and intimidating conduct and use of force.

“[P]olice officers voluntarily undertake to adhere to a higher standard of conduct . . . . Police officers must comport themselves in accordance with the laws that they are sworn to enforce and behave in a manner that brings honor and respect for rather than public distrust of law enforcement personnel. . . . they implicitly agree that they will not engage in conduct which calls into question their ability and fitness to perform their official responsibilities.”
Attorney General v. McHatton, 428 Mass. 790, 793-74 (1999) and cases cited. See also,
Falmouth v. Civil Service Commission, 61 Mass.App.Ct. 796, 801-802 (2004).

Thus, having established by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the main reasons for bypassing him was justified, the MPD acted appropriately in declining to appoint Mr. Monagle to the MPD.
Accordingly, for the reasons stated above, the appeal of the Appellant, Michael Monagle, is hereby dismissed”

Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

About Attorney Ronald A. Sellon

Ronald A. Sellon is a licensed Attorney in the state of Massachusetts and U.S. District Court, Massachusetts as well as a Sergeant with a Municipal Police Department and U.S. military Veteran. Additionally, he has taught Criminal Procedure at the Massachusetts State Police Academy in New Braintree and has written a text on Criminal Procedure for police field training officer programs. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, was a 2008 recipient of the Massachusetts Coalition of Police (Mass C.O.P.) Presidents award and holds a Bachelors Degree in Law Enforcement, a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Administration, and a Juris Doctor Law Degree. Questions related to content material may be directed to RSellon@PoliceLegalPromotions.com
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