Approvals Intended to Facilitate Public Safety Hiring

Bedford Town Meeting on Monday approved without debate two articles intended to expand the pool of applicants for entry-level vacancies in the Police and Fire Departments.

Both involve relaxing the departments’ relationship with some facets of the state civil service system.

Article 5 revokes the acceptance of civil service laws for patrol officers. Select Board member Paul Mortenson explained that civil service “impedes the ability to hire qualified officers on a timely basis.”

For example, Mortenson said, candidates take a civil service qualifying test in March, but the results aren’t manifested in a list for departmental hiring until July. Meanwhile, he said, non-civil service departments – such as some towns contiguous to Bedford – hire some of the best applicants. 

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Select Board member Paul Mortenson answer questions during the debate of one of the articles at Special Town Meeting. Staff photo by Wayne Braverman

Mortenson said civil service will still apply to supervisors in the department, and hiring and discipline will still be covered under state law.

Also approved was Article 6, a home-rule petition that will request the Legislature to allow the town to exempt provisions of civil service law that set a maximum age for new firefighters at 32.

“The goal is to get more applicants,” Mortenson said. “The age limit hurts the ability to hire otherwise qualified candidates.” He said the department will remain covered by civil service in all other aspects, and applicants will still have to qualify by passing physical and acuity tests.

Town Meeting also approved Article 4, allocating $65,000 to cover incremental obligations after approval of a new collective bargaining agreement with the police patrolmen’s union.

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