Massachusetts Civil Service
History & Purpose of the Civil Service Commission
In 1884, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted the Commonwealth's civil service law. Massachusetts was the second state to pass such a statute. The fundamental purpose of the civil service system is "to guard against political considerations, favoritism, and bias in governmental employment decisions; when there are, in connection with personnel decisions, overtones of political control or objectives unrelated to merit standards or neutrally applied public policy." Cambridge v. Civil Service Commission, 43 Mass. App. Ct. 300, 304 (1997).
The Civil Service Hiring Process
The Human Resources Division administers and oversees the civil service hiring process, which begins with the administration of the civil service test. To maximize chances of scoring well, candidates would be well advised to take an exam preparation seminar, such as those offered by Attorney Patrick M. Rogers of Commonwealth Police Service, Inc.
At least 3 weeks before the exam filing deadline, civil service examination notices are posted in city and town halls. The written examination consists of three subtests: the Written Ability Test (WAT), the Life Experience Survey (LES), and the Work Styles Questionnaire (WSQ). The WAT is administered to measure cognitive abilities that have been identified as essential to performing the duties of a Police Officer. The WAT includes areas of verbal expression, verbal comprehension, problem sensitivity, deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, and information ordering. The LES consists of a series of multiple-choice questions related to candidates' past history and experience of potential relevance to successful performance of entry-level police officers. The WSQ
is designed to assess certain motivational,
value-related and attitudinal characteristics that
are of potential relevance to successful performance
of entry-level police officers.
Click here for more information including a link to the
Police Officer Examination Study Guide.
Effective preparation is essential to achieving a high score on this examination. Commonwealth Police Service, Inc. offers exam preparation seminars in a variety of locations throughout the Commonwealth. Attorney Patrick M. Rogers of Commonwealth Police Service, Inc. has lectured to thousands of police officers on various legal topics. He has over twenty years of police law enforcement experience and has authored a number of textbooks for CPS, Inc. that are used state-wide by thousands of police officers everyday. Additionally, he is also the author of the state-wide handbooks on Domestic Violence and Constitutional Law published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The qualifications and experience offered by CPS, Inc. is unparalleled by any other service in the Commonwealth.
No later than 6 months after the examination, the tests are scored and candidates are placed on a civil service list based on their training, experience, and examination score in the following order:
- disabled veterans
- widows or widowed mothers of veterans who were killed in action or died from a service connected disability incurred in wartime service,
- all others, in the order of their respective standings.
(Note: city or town residents may also receive preference as well as sons and daughters of deceased or disabled police officers and firefighters).
The civil service eligible list contains the names of those who have passed the examination, ranked by the above-mentioned statutory preferences. Eligible lists change as applicants are hired, new examinations are given, hiring preferences are applied, and scores are adjudicated.
When an appointing authority has a vacancy to be filled, it files a requisition with the Human Resources Division for a specific number of positions. The Human Resources Division responds with a certified list of candidates from the top of the eligible list. The formula 2N + 1 is used to determine how many names to certify. (N is the number of appointments to be made). When the certification is issued, applicants will receive a “civil service card.” The card instructs the applicant to appear in person at the hiring agency to sign the certification, indicating a willingness to accept employment.
Successful candidates usually must complete a background investigation, interview, medical exam & the physical abilities test (PAT). The PAT is a test of the candidate’s aerobic capacity and physical capability to perform various tasks required on the job. There are different PATs for police officer and firefighter candidates. Once the selection process is complete, the appointing authority returns the certification to HRD. If a person with a lower test score is selected over a person with a higher score, reasons for the selection of the lower scoring person must be approved by HRD. This is known as a "bypass." Candidates may appeal bypasses to the Civil Service Commission. Candidates may also appeal, to HRD, the grading of the examination, credit awarded for training and experience, and a denial for admission to the examination.
Pursuant to G.L. c. 41 § 96B, all candidates appointed as full-time police officers are be required to successfully complete police academy training.
Disciplinary & other Civil Service Appeals
One of the most important components of the civil service system is the “just cause” protection which it affords tenured employees. Civil service employees cannot be discharged, removed, suspended, laid off, or transferred without “just cause.” Tenured Civil Service employees may appeal such actions to the Civil Service Commission. Candiates who are bypassed for appointment or promotion may also appeal to the Commission.
Consult the Civil Service FAQ Section for more Information.