Boston Cops and the Civil Service Commission

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Michelle McPhee, late of the Herald and currently on WTKK, has a gripping piece on the efforts to root out corruption in the Boston Police Department. McPhee was on the crime beat before and her dramatic writing gives an important story even more life.

Halfway through the piece
, McPhee fingers one of the key suspects:

BPD leaders say one of the biggest hurdles to cleaning up the force is the state’s Civil Service Commission, an independent body established in 1884 to prevent politicians from interfering in the hiring practices of public agencies, or managers from canning people unfairly…Any police officer—or civil servant—who has been disciplined or fired can appeal to the commission and have a full hearing. If it decides the cop was wrongfully dismissed, it can overrule the firing unilaterally…

Regardless of how often the commission rules in favor of the BPD brass, the mere threat of an appeal is often a deterrent to disciplinary action. Davis cites civil service protection as preventing him from firing David Murphy after the cop was charged with punching his girlfriend in the face at a Baltimore bar. Davis weighed moving to kick Murphy off the force, knowing that if he did, Murphy almost certainly would appeal to civil service. The BPD’s legal department told Davis the fight could stretch on for years, cost tens of thousands of dollars, and most likely be “a loser,” Davis says, because Murphy had agreed to probation before judgment (meaning his record won’t show a criminal conviction if he stays out of trouble during his 18-month probation). So instead, Murphy is back on the force, making him one of 11 Boston cops suspended by the department for domestic violence allegations over the past two years who got to keep their jobs.

Sigh, makes one wonder why no one has proposed any reforms in this area. Oh, that’s right — Pioneer proposed significant reforms in 2000. Still waiting….