June 4, 2009

What Management Rights?

Marc Comtois

Whether it's with Police departments in Cranston and East Providence or charter schools in Providence and Cranston, union contracts just always seem to contain provisions that restrict basic management rights. In the case of the Police, why on earth should the Mayor and/or City Council not be able to hire whomever they want to be Chief? Well, because both Cranston and East Providence have contracts restricting new hires to from within their own ranks. As for the charter schools, the price for getting charter schools in Rhode Island at all was, apparently, that they be unionized and young teachers be subjected to the same "bump" process that can short-circuit any hopes of school-team building.

Cranston's Mayor Fung seems to have conceded the point (the City Council is still looking into its options) and the E.P. City Council is fighting the union. As for the charter schools, Education Commissioner McWalters previously directed the Providence schools to replace vacancies based solely on teacher qualifications, not seniority, and the belief is that his directive can be extended to include the Charter Schools. Or they'll seek emancipation from the school systems to which they are currently linked.

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"Well, because both Cranston and East Providence have contracts restricting new hires to from within their own ranks."


While that may be true for Cranston, the East Providence Police contract's actual language does not "restrict" or "require" that the chief come from within the department, which is one of the reasons why there is a dispute in East Providence. There is far from any "open and shut" language. The contract states hiring from within as being a "goal" and uses terms like "when practical" and other "open to interpretation" language. It does not use "shall" or any other similarly definitive words.

The police union, like most of the unions in East Providence, are quite used to getting their way, and can't understand why anyone would want to upset the applecart. They forced the former chief out and just assumed that the 2nd in command, who is much more agreeable in their eyes, would just step right in.

34 people applied for the position, of which 10 are from within EP. The city manager, through an interview process, will determine who he thinks the best candidate is, and forward his recommendation to the city council for approval. That should likely happen within the next month or so.

I don't personally have an opinion as to whether the person should come from the inside or the outside, as I'm pretty sure, whomever it is, will not too shortly thereafter do something to offend the union, and then be on the "outs." There are several different factions within the department, each pushing their own candidate. Remember, all of our prior chiefs were "insiders" ... and very few of them have ever served more than 3-5 years in the position before being forced or otherwise coaxed into retirement.

I have a generally high opinion of the police department and officers in East Providence, and I know many of them personally. Several are my neighbors. However, I have very little regard for the childish antics of their union's leadersip. It's been a very poor reflection on them.

Posted by: Will at June 4, 2009 5:20 PM


It's much better for cities and towns to have those who will lead police and fire departments come from their ranks. Police officers and firefighters are attached to their communities as they have lived, helped to raise families and worked in these commuities through the course of their careers. Second the city and town benefits by having those that they have trained use the training in these positions. It provides the proper motivation for its members to compete for the chief's job. Most importantly though is that the person selected as chief should not be beholding to one person, the mayor or town manager. One who is well attached to the community, has the benefit of having been trained by the community and is not working for one person but the entire commun ity should have preference.
If a city or town's police or fire department has had significant problems in its leadership and there's evidence of longtime dysfunction then it may be neccesary to reach out to find different leaders.

Posted by: Phil at June 4, 2009 9:10 PM

Will, thanks for the clarification, I lumped E.P. and Cranston too closely, though they are going thru a similar debate.

Phil, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that promoting from within makes sense, for the reasons you have outlined. I would guess that most Mayors/Councils also see the benefit. But, as you say, sometimes a department is so dysfunctional its better to look outside. Unfortunately, a contract mandating hiring from within wouldn't allow that.

Posted by: Marc at June 5, 2009 8:30 AM


Next question would have to be does either city's police dept. fit the description of dysfuntional. After years of corruption and weak leadership during the Cianci years the Providence police had the need to go outside its organization. Do these two ?

Posted by: Phil at June 6, 2009 6:41 AM
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