Mayor Driscoll's letter to City Council

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Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll's letter to council outlining two options for expanding the pool of candidates for police chief


<ul><li><p>CITY OF SALEM, MASSACHUSETTSKimberley Driscoll</p><p>MayorJuly 17, 2014</p><p>Honorable Salem City CouncilSalem City HallSalem, MA 01970</p><p>Ladies and Gentlemen of the Council:</p><p>I am writing to you about a matter that is important and critical to the future of our City. As you know, I remain very concerned about the manner in which the City will select our next Police Chief (also known as City Marshal in our Code of Ordinances). Given that our current Chief Paul Tucker is expected to prevail in his campaign for State Representative, I fully expect that we will have a vacancy in this position sometime after November. At present, in order to select the next Chief the City must adhere to a Civil Service process that restricts our ability to fill this vacancy in an open and robust manner. Recruitment and selection of the next Chief, under the current system, is limited solely to members of the current municipal department and most likely only individuals in the rank of Captain will be eligible to participate. As you know, one of our more senior Captains, Tom Griffin, just announced he will be resigning to accept a position as a non-Civil Service Chief in the City of Peabody. This further limits the pool of eligible in-house applicants here in Salem. While I do believe there are capable and qualified personnel in the Salem Police Department who we value and certainly want to consider for advancement, limiting our choices solely to in house candidates does not make good sense at this time. Moreover, it is not a practice we typically follow when filling other high ranking positions in the City. </p><p>With that in mind, I am asking for your consideration to help ensure that we have the best possible process to attract the best possible candidates for the position of Police Chief in the City of Salem. As I see it, we have two options at hand: </p><p>1) The Council could adopt an Order to send a home rule petition to the legislature removing the position of City Marshal Chief of Police from the constraints of M.G.L. Chapter 31 (Civil Service) and thereby allow for a more open and locally controlled hiring process. I have previously submitted a proposed hiring ordinance that would allow for a robust process that includes Council and community input as part of the selection effort. This ordinance would establish a new process for hiring the Police Chief which would expand the opportunity to apply for Chief to external candidates, as well as a far greater number of current members of the Department. In speaking with many of you I have heard expressed a repeated desire to strengthen the preference for internal candidates in the ordinance; therefore I would like to propose that we incorporate language into the proposed hiring ordinance that would explicitly provide a preference for local candidates. In other words, in the event the two final candidates are equally qualified but one is an external candidate and the other an internal candidate, the internal candidate shall receive the appointment. I would also be open to an amendment stipulating that new Chiefs would be hired under a contract, per M.G.L. Chapter 41 108O, for a term of at least three, but no more, </p></li><li><p>than five years. This language has been used in other cities and provides protections to future chiefs from political shifts between changes of administrations. I believe this ordinance represents the best prospect for ensuring our next police chief is hired through a process that provides for the greatest transparency, competition, local control, and opportunity for as many of our own Salem police officers to compete for the leadership position.</p><p>2) In the alternative, should the Council not be willing to adopt a home rule petition to remove the Police Chief position from Civil Service, I would ask that you adopt an Order to place this matter before the voters at the upcoming November 4 th election. If the Council were to submit this matter to the voters of Salem they would be following the same practice that was followed when the City adopted civil service. Moreover, several communities have repealed civil service positions in this manner in order to strengthen and improve their hiring practices. Most recently the City of Gloucester placed this question before their voters during the last statewide election. I recognize many of you may have reservations about opening up this hiring process. Even if you still believe this may not be the right course of action, I hope you will at least give the voters of Salem an opportunity to weigh in on the question. </p><p>Lastly, I want to make sure you know that time is of the essence with respect to this matter. For any measure to be adopted either a home rule petition adopted by the Council or an order to place this measure before the voters it must be approved in August to afford ample time to act by all parties. Since the Council is not scheduled to meet again until September, this may require that a special City Council meeting be held in August to take this matter up. I trust you share my concern regarding the importance of this matter and would ask that the Council consider holding both a Committee of the Whole and a Special City Council meeting on August 7th, so that we can fully discuss the enclosed orders and the previously submitted hiring ordinance. If the Council chooses to vote this matter down or not to take it up in a timely manner, the only way this issue can be placed before the legislature would be via an initiative petition requiring the collection of nearly 4,000 signatures in the next several weeks. With that in mind, I hope you will act swiftly-one way or the other- so that option can be exercised if necessary.</p><p>I cannot underscore enough the importance of this topic. Under the current system no more than a small handful of internal candidates may apply for Chief. Of these few, the Mayor may select from the top three scoring candidates, without input from the community, our unions, the Council, or anyone else. This is a department with a $9 million budget and 90 employees. I am greatly concerned that, while we have been fortunate in our leaders in the past, we are placing our City in a precarious position by limiting both public input and potential applicants and reducing the opportunity for greater competition, not just from external candidates, but from many of our own exceptional rank-and-file police officers.</p><p>Please note that of the 353 police chiefs in Massachusetts, 280 are not part of the state civil service hiring system. Unlike many of these other communities, however, our proposal is not simply to leave the 130 year old state imposed hiring system, but rather to couple it with a new, more open process, with stronger local controls, greater emphasis on merit and credentials, and increased transparency and public input. I trust you share my concern regarding the importance of this matter and respectfully request a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss these orders and the already submitted hiring ordinance and for a special meeting to be set following that committee meeting in order for the full Council to vote on the measures. I am, as always, happy to speak with you and answer any and all questions you may have for me on this critical matter.</p><p>Sincerely,</p></li><li><p>Kimberley Driscoll, Mayor</p></li></ul>