Time to test the Civil Service Board?

Can you imagine a private business suing itself to force a change in its hiring process?

Didn’t think so.

Somehow- our city can’t figure out a way to hire qualified people and promote them. Apparently, this is rocket science.

And, it’s costing us a lot to “fix” as well as for “remediation.”

Considering much of the reason we have this system to prevent the horror of nepotism- yet, we don’t apply the same standards to those we elect.

Screw it all.

Why not have job performance evaluations on a weekly basis- and you get promoted because you do a super job- not based on time in, seniority, or how you test?

Read the following- and see if you’d keep this monstrosity?

The investigation is another setback for Civil Service within the last three years.

The board was the epicenter of a U.S. Department of Justice hiring discrimination lawsuit the city later settled. The city also promised to diversify its police and fire departments.

The settlement has cost the city more than $500,000 and delayed the hiring of police and fire officers in order to overhaul testing and hiring practices.

At the same time, retirements have trimmed police and fire ranks to their lowest levels in decades.

In July, the city’s firefighters union filed grievances claiming Civil Service did not give enough notice for a promotions exam and incorrectly barred some firefighters from participating.

The notice grievance was dropped, but the other settled, allowing some of the 20 firefighters who didn’t take the exam to do so, union officials said.

“I question what Civil Service is doing and why all of the sudden we are having so many issues with Civil Service,” said Randy Beane, police union president. “To put together a (promotions) test like that is flat out wrong and I can’t for the life of me understand why you would have that many identical questions for two entirely different positions.”

Investigation involved SWAT team

An anonymous complaint sent to Biehl’s office in September said a group of officers shared questions and answers to the promotions test during Special Weapons And Tactics team sniper training in late August.

Officers on SWAT are considered among the best and brightest of the department and must maintain an exemplary employment record. The complaint alleged Sgt. Greg Gaby was to take the lieutenants exam and benefited from information shared by those who took the sergeant’s exam, according to police documents obtained through a public records request last week.

The six officers and two sergeants interviewed, including Gaby, were at that training and said they discussed, in general, what knowledge would be tested, but did not share specific questions.

All eight said they were “surprised” the tests contained identical or similar questions.

Gaby passed the lieutenants exam with a 76, just above the 70-point threshold.

“I am pretty upset about (the cheating accusation),” Gaby told investigators. “For someone to call me a liar or a cheater, I got a real issue with that.”

Beane said the internal investigation uncovered “incompetence or laziness or both” by Civil Service and he called for a complete overhaul of the promotion exam process.

Edwards said the process is “being reviewed to see if any changes are necessary in the future.”

Dayton City Commissioner Dean Lovelace said “something is wrong” with how the exam was developed and said he will ask City Manager Tim Riordan to review the process.

“This is outrageous, for sure,” Lovelace said.

via Police cheating probe rips Civil Service Board.

The last line is truly the icing on the cake- since Commissioner Lovelace has been the moving force into starting the lawsuit- and has yet to put any alternatives on the table for discussion.

We still can’t hire from other departments- we even forced a chief into being called a “director” because he didn’t keep a notebook- despite over 25 years’ experience. To have a test bank of only 330 questions- for a job as complex as police supervisor is almost a crime in itself. To base it all on something as one-dimensional as a written test is even more ludicrous. No on-the-spot questions from senior staff, no scenario tests, no basis of past performance, no community input?

Being a cop is a tough enough job, that many aren’t willing to take the job, keeping this three-ring circus is certainly not helping.

It’s time for a complete overhaul to the way we hire, train and promote our safety forces, but, first- maybe we should start administering IQ tests to the people we elect- and the people they hire.

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3 Responses

  1. truddick January 30, 2011 / 4:14 pm
    Hello again David.  Do you know that “fix” and “remediate” are, roughly speaking, synonyms?
    But to the big picture: this certainly disproves (though probably doesn’t eliminate) the argument that these tests are perfectly fair and that the highest score should be hired/promoted regardless of race or gender.
    Any competent educator knows that testing is never perfect, and that testing does not reveal the range of knowledge and competence.  Let’s face it, who would you want to draw blood, someone who has passed a paper-and-pencil test, or someone who has performed the procedure several dozen times?  (In reality, you’d prefer both, correct?)
    A question pool of 330 items is not the issue.  A pool of 330 valid, reliable items is superior to one of 660 where half of the items are inferior in quality.  And the number of questions on the actual test is less important also; all things being equal, a 100-question test is only around 3% more accurate than one of 50 questions.
    I’m here agreeing with your conclusion To base it all on something as one-dimensional as a written test is even more ludicrous but let’s not accept errors committed in the process of reaching that conclusion.  Even the top testing firms in the nation make mistakes: consider the ACT/SAT for college admissions–the only thing they predict is performance in the first year of college, and they predict that only weakly.  Yet many colleges persist in counting those test scores as a major factor in admissions.  Thinking that the test can be improved if it had more and better questions is not a conclusion supported by evidence nor experience.
    You and I had that interesting recent exchange about how Terry Ryan wrote that we really don’t know how to evaluate teachers. In the real world, the right decisions about hiring and promotion are elusive–some research has shown that the typical company selects the best person only 15% of the time (the best companies get it up to 45%).  Hiring and promotion decisions, even in the best conditions, are far from scientific or perfect, and that’s true for teachers, first responders, and entry-level executives.
    In fact, there’s evidence that giving someone job security might be what leads to excellence in a profession–for example, tenured university professors on the average publish more research studies, get higher student evaluations, and perform more community service than those who aren’t yet tenured.  Maybe we should just promote police according to seniority so long as they don’t have too many negatives in their personnel files.
    I submit that there’s no single proven way to improve on what the civil service board does (and I imagine they’re shackled to several legal requirements that limit them).  I’d like to think that I know more about how to hire/promote based on valid criteria and reliable assessments–but do you have an accurate way of testing my claim?
  2. David Esrati January 30, 2011 / 5:36 pm

    @truddick- “remediation” is the word that the political/legal types like to use- Fix is what the rest of use. Mediate- as in mediation- as in stepping in seek an equitable solution- yet, fix is very final- as in it’s not broken anymore. The fact that you are “re” anything means you are doing it again… and again.

    As to reliable indications of performance- I’ve seen all kinds of tests used to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

    The US Army manages to keep a lot of minorities out of Special Forces by including a swim test as part of the pre-qualifications. I didn’t believe it- but, when I watched about 30 African Americans nearly drown in the span of 2 hours- and only 4 make it into my class- I knew what I was witnessing.

    The SAT/ACT tests are a huge scam. I’ve known a few people who scored near perfect- or perfect- with a huge difference in their actual capacity to cope with the real world.

    When it comes to businesses hiring the “right people” – I’m convinced that this is what separates the most successful companies from the rest. For a famous example- look at Apple- their CEO, a college drop out, once fired- and now…

    Yep, either you understand what makes the right people or you don’t.

    I believe life isn’t fair. I never underestimate the stupidity of people in large numbers (look at our elections- local and national).

    I trust a chief of police who is held accountable for certain, easily definable metrics- to choose the right officers- better than a test. And I trust his choices to make the right decisions as well. A clear understanding of the goals- is what makes it easier to win.

    Work and sports both have winners and losers- however many people in the workplace have a really hard time keeping score.

    The best leaders make clear- what is expected of their team- and set the goal.
    They know the business inside and out.

    That’s our fundamental problem with the civil service system- we’ve delegated the power to people who don’t know the business of police and fire- or anything for that matter.

  3. Sue February 16, 2011 / 5:41 pm
    It appears there may have been a change of command at the top of Civil Service staff recently, based on the “Acting” title being used.

    Also, DDN just reported confusion, contention between City of Dayton and Dept. of Justice (whom it invited in) and further delay in scoring police recruit exams, and possible effect on firefighter applicants who just signed up.

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