Civil service was a huge topic at Monday’s Annual Town Meeting, and judging by the relatively narrow, 62-to-52 vote to approve Article 13, the people of Bourne have mixed feelings about removing the position of police chief in Bourne from civil service regulations.
This we can understand, as solid arguments have been made on both sides of the issue.
We stand by the vote of the townspeople of Bourne, but we can understand both positions. (See page 1 for more details.)
For instance, Town Administrator Anthony Schiavi argued that passing Article 13 would give the town greater latitude in the choice of police chief. Under the civil service model, “We’re allowing a system, not the community, to decide who will be police chief,” he said, noting that civil service doesn’t take into account attributes the town might want in its chief of police.
However, we can also understand former Bourne police chief Dennis Woodside, who told the Charter Review Committee last month that the position should remain a civil service one for several reasons, including the job protection it provides. He argued that, if Article 13 passes, no one in the police department would want to be promoted to the top spot in the department. (See page 3.)
“Because they have protection now,” he said. “They would have no protection. They could not risk that.”
Mr. Schiavi countered that argument on Monday, saying that the best form of job protection is to do a good job for the community, not built-in safeguards that come with civil service.
He also told the Town Meeting audience that approximately 60 of the police chiefs in the commonwealth’s 351 communities are still civil service positions.
Now that Article 13 has passed, we expect Mr. Schiavi to follow through on his promise to give the community a loud voice in choosing a new police chief.