Richfield commission charged with overseeing police personnel matters is eliminated

In a decision that was telegraphed during prior discussions, the Richfield City Council voted unanimously June 27 to eliminate the commission that oversees the hiring and promotion of police officers.

In deciding to eliminate the Police Civil Service Commission, the city of Richfield is matching a statewide trend in which such commissions have become obsolete, according to a staff report prepared for the city council by City Attorney Mary Tietjen.

The city ordered a study of the Civil Service Commission in March, finding that the body was one of only 17 similar commissions in the state. Formed in 1945 as a means to separate the hiring and firing of officers from the powers of the city council, the commission’s purpose has become redundant, consultant Michelle Soldo found.

Now, the city has subject-matter experts such as human resources professionals, labor attorneys and unions to guide police personnel decisions, according to the staff report. The Civil Service Commission is comprised of members who don’t typically have expertise on those personnel matters, Soldo told the city council.

The most important reason for eliminating the commission, though, is state law pertaining to cities with civil service commissions, according to Soldo. The law, which says cities with a civil service commission must use an exam for hirings and promotions, has kept Richfield from participating in a program meant to increase diversity in police departments.

The Richfield Police Department helped establish the Suburban Law Enforcement Training Academy with that aim in mind, but the state has not permitted the city to use the resource. Participants in the academy are made job offers contingent on their completion of the program, but since Richfield had a civil service commission in place, state rules have mandated that new hires pass a promotional exam. That barrier has now been eliminated, freeing the department to pick from academy graduates.

To complete her consultation work, Soldo will prepare a recommendation for future police promotional processes based on the absence of the Police Civil Service Commission.

The Fire Civil Service Commission, meanwhile, is unaffected by the city council’s decision.

Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @RISunCurrent.