Police Commissioner Bill Evans weighed in on an ongoing debate about hiring policies for Boston police officers and firefighters that some say favor veterans over residents.
Evans told WGBH News he favors a “dual system” that includes equal opportunities for both veterans and “city kids” who have lived in Boston for years.
“I’m not going to take away from the vets, I admire them,” Evans said in an interview Monday with Boston Public Radio. “But we’ve got to find a better way to get inner-city kids on both our fire and police.”
Minority firefighter and police groups have asked the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission to launch an investigation into hiring policies in Boston fire and police departments.
According to the civil service law, those who take the exam get moved up the list if they’ve lived in Boston for at least a year before applying, a policy known as “residence preference.”
In a complaint filed Feb. 14 by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, the groups allege that a veteran from Massachusetts who has never lived in Boston can get residence preference, moving up the list without fulfilling the residency requirement.
Evans, who has three brothers who fought in the Vietnam War and says he’s “100 percent behind” the veterans, said he likes to see residents get “first shot” at police and fire jobs.
“I was a city kid. I’ve lived here all my life," he said. "I know a lot of people who wanted to get on Boston Fire and Boston Police, and to see people coming from outside and around the country and get the jobs ... there has to be separate pathways, one to take care of the veterans, but also to get people who have also lived in the city who want these jobs, and unfortunately people [are] coming from all over and getting in front of them."
The Lawyers' Committee filed the request on behalf of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, the Boston Society of Vulcans, and 10 individuals. The filing suggests the preference for residents of Massachusetts, which is less diverse than the city of Boston, results in less black and Hispanic police officers.
“I wish we could get more [residents],” Evans said, “because I think it would allow us to diversify even greater.”
To hear the full interview, click on the audio player above.