Cutright airs Civil Service test grievances
By By Suzanne Monk / managing editor
June 28, 2002
Capt. Theresa Cutright of the Meridian Police Department got her chance Thursday to tell the Civil Service Commission what she thought was wrong with a test administered to candidates for the position of assistant police chief.
Eleven officers took the test on April 17. Three received passing grades Capt. Keith McCary, Capt. Betty Evans and Lt. Al Brown.
Cutright did not pass, and her concerns about the examination fell into two broad categories: 1) that some of the questions were out-of-date or did not relate to the assistant chief position; and 2) that "points" were added to the raw scores in an improper manner.
Cutright's primary area of concern seemed to be how many points the members of the examining board added to the raw scores because the truth is, nobody really passed the test.
A score of 70 was required for a passing grade. Once the raw scores were tabulated, the highest score was 68. In this situation, the examining board is authorized to add a uniform number of points to each score in order to raise some of the applicants above the passing mark.
The question is how many points?
If you add enough points, everyone can pass. The idea is to add points in such a way that the most qualified test-takers in the group are raised into passing territory without discriminating against other people with close, but lower, scores.
With the group that took the assistant chief's test, points were added, raising three applicants into the passing range. Chief Benny DuBose said he had considered a number of points that raised six scores into passing range, but rejected it.
Cutright questioned the method by which the examining board determined how many "added points" there would be. She also said there should be some degree of uniformity over time in the number of points added to Civil Service Commission exams.
DuBose said the added points did not discriminate against any particular officer and that test-takers were identified only by number at that point.
Cutright said she recognized the test as one she had taken more than 10 years ago. She cited one question, in particular, that she said exemplified her concern that the test did not address current law enforcement situations.
It asked test-takers to choose among four options to complete the (paraphrased) sentence: "At the turn of the century, the reason for the change in prevailing police conduct was …"
Cutright said such questions are not appropriate in a work environment so influenced by technology, court rulings and procedural changes.
Attorney Lee Thaggard, representing the city of Meridian, said her criticism of one question out of the approximately 130 that were asked was insufficient to cast serious doubt on the test's validity.
Other discussion at the hearing centered around whether Cutright had filed her appeal in a timely fashion and DuBose's removal of 37 questions from the test before it was given.
The Meridian Civil Service Commission hopes to issue a ruling within 10 days in the case of Capt. Theresa Cutright. Its decision will be released into the public record only after the concerned parties have been notified by mail, and no assistant police chief will be named before then.