There is an interesting story out of Massachusetts where an official at the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission found that the Methuen Police Department admitted that job applicants were given higher scores if they indicated that they would never arrest a fellow officer for drunk driving and other applicants were downgraded for saying that they would apply the law equally to all citizens — officers and non-officers alike.
Christopher C. Bowman, chairman of the Civil Service Commission wrote in a July 9 decision that “the City turned the interview process upside down. There is simply no valid basis to award the highest points to candidates who express a willingness to apply one set of rules to strangers and another set of rules to friends and family members.”
Methuen asked candidates how they would handle a situation in which where they found a driver in a crash who appeared to be intoxicated. The candidate was then asked if the response would change if it involved a relative or a police officer they knew from a neighboring town. The questions are obviously designed to elevate honest officers but was instead used to select dishonest ones. When candidates said they wouldn’t arrest family or fellow officers, the hiring panel noted the person “knows discretion.” Indeed, Bowman said that “Some of the interview panelists actually heaped high praise on those candidates who stated that they would arrest a stranger but not arrest a friend or family member based on the same facts, citing their understanding of ‘discretion.’”
While Methuen Mayor Stephen N. Zanni (right) said he plans to review the police hiring process and procedures, there was notably no assurance that officials rewarding such pledges to turn a blind eye to crime would be fired. It would seem that this is a fairly good measure of an officer’s inability to serve. The grading officer or officers not only selected candidates based on their professed bias but actively sought officers who would ignore crimes. That does not seem a matter for better training but rather a fundamental misconception of the role of police in our society by those on the panel of review. It is not the fitness of the candidates that I am most concerned about but the fitness of the panel members who allegedly gave higher score to those who would show bias in the enforcement of the law.