Last month Judge George O’Toole heard closing arguments in a federal lawsuit brought by 44 minorities against the Massachusetts civil service commission for what it described as discriminatory practices in using a multiple choice test for promotional purposes.
The crux of their argument lies in the fact that they argued that the multiple choice exam is by its very nature discriminatory as minorities have historically done poorly on those types of exams.
Most of the state is waiting for the judges ruling as the future of the Civil service system is essentially hanging in the balance. Recently, however the Boston Herald reported on the case and I take issue with two matters they reported. They challenge the Civil service System as flawed due in part because of the preference it gives to #1 veterans, and #2 to the children of slain officers in the line of duty. To attack those who either 1. served this country in its time of need, or 2. those children left without a parent because of their service is irresponsible, heartless, and disrespectful. The veterans preference in my humble opinion comes from a number of avenues. It is rooted in both pragmatism, and gratitude from a grateful nation. Their military regimented background establishes an excellent foundation to grow into paramilitary organizations such as police departments. They receive training in high stress decision making, and are versed in communication technologies as well as various other training that can be found invaluable. That is the pragmatic view, from a personal viewpoint they sacrifice on battlefields, and endure 6 month or year long deployments away from their family, all for below poverty level wages.
The preference given to them is not some new development that is hidden from the bulk of society, it is a known fact and every high school student makes a choice related to. Does that person as an 18 year old high school grad want to be separated from their family and friends, thrown into a high stress environmental of boot camp, endure 20 hour days for the next 4 years of their life while in some cases quite literally fighting for their lives? Or does that 18 year old choose college (if they can afford it)? The point is that someone has to do it, and to treat a measure of thanks with such disdain as the “herald editorial staff” does is a slap in the face.
As for the children of slain police officers? I challenge anyone to look in the eyes of a child standing at their parents funeral and tell them as the herald does that we owe them nothing. Does anyone with that opinion really think the doors are being knocked down by a herd of “entitled” children of slain officers looking for a handout?
Most children of slain officers spend the rest of their lives trying to understand why their parent will never come home and part of that search may lead them to walk the same path as the person who was pulled from their lives. I don’t believe I have either the credentials or the gall to tell them they are not allowed to do that.
Many detractors of the civil service system have an axe to grind. Either they did not score high enough, or they “know someone” that promised them a job “if not for civil service” and its silly rules about hiring based on merit not connections. The system isn’t perfect, but to steal a phrase from Winston Churchill – “it is the worst in the entire world…., except all others”. Quite simply, it is all we have. The essence of it is to protect against patronage (hello probation department and parole board) and ensure an independant politically insulated police department that does not care if you are the selectmans daughter or the daughter of a plumber (with all due respect to them), they will treat you the same. Any other result is simply unacceptable. We shouldn’t forget that in 1883, then New York State Assemblyman Theodore Roosevelt pushed a bill through that established a civil service system that dictated government hiring that was based on merit and fitness, not on favoritism and patronage, which to that time had been the norm under a succession of governors and mayors.
I hope that whatever ruling Judge O’Toole reaches and writes will bear those basic principles and concepts in mind.
Attorney Ronald A. Sellon