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Police feud causes woe



Published: Thu, January 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The fairness of civil service exams is being disputed.

WARREN -- Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at large, says he is not pleased with the public battle between the police department and Safety-Service Director Fred Harris.

Fonce is an ex-cop who took a job in the private sector after being laid off in 2000 because of budget cuts.

He told fellow lawmakers Wednesday he's unhappy there is tension between the department and Harris, who recently ordered that officers wear their police hats while on duty.

Harris also has taken issue with department overtime, and officers have complained that Harris shows up on the scene of arrests and disturbances.

Fonce said he's also upset that there's been talk of lowering the requirements for civil service exams that test the physical agility and knowledge of potential police officers and firefighters.

Fire Chief Jim Nutt said the test is unfair and socially biased and that questions are not pertinent.

Test results: Warren Civil Service Commission has said it will consider using a different firm to design entry-level exams for safety services. Right now, they use an out-of-town firm to design the tests.

Of the 110 people who took a firefighter's exam in December, only 53 passed. Of the 109 people who took the written test for police in the fall, 77 passed. Of those, 39 passed the physical test.

Fonce told Nutt some questions might be unfair but the city needs to raise its standards and attract qualified employees.

Mayor Hank Angelo assured Fonce the city is not thinking of taking over civil service testing.

Fonce also urged the city and union covering patrol officers to come together in ongoing negotiations.

"It's time for the animosity to stop," he said.

An arbitrator has scheduled the second part of a hearing in February and should make a binding decision afterward.

The two sides are at odds over raises and payment of the employee shares toward retirement.

Fonce said the number of contract talks between the city and unions that have gone to arbitration is staggering. He added the city's rate of success in the arbitration process is not favorable.




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