Part-time Kennett Square police officer Ryan Murtagh has been twice denied the chance to make up a test he missed because of an injury he suffered while on the job. Unless the Civil Service Commission, the body that administers the testing and qualifying of borough police officers, has some hidden agenda or ax to grind, it is hard to understand why the members would be so tough on a commended officer who recovered fast and wants to serve his town in an increased capacity.
On March 23, Mr. Murtagh, after having passed his written test to qualify for the pool of applicants for a full-time position, chased and helped apprehend a man suspected of possession of drug in the borough. But in the process, he fell and twisted his knee.
Immediately after, his doctor told him to cease physical activity until he was cleared to work again -- a process that took 17 days. Therefore he was unable to do three of the four elements on the physical agility test scheduled for March 25 that involved his legs.
According to testimony at the appeal hearing last Thursday, The Civil Service Commission and Borough Administrative Assistant Evie Soliwoda both told him when he asked that it was too late, and he could not be retested.
Now he is appealing to the Civil Service Commission for a retest and expects to get an answer in 45 days, after the commission has studied the findings of fact and conclusions of law. At that point the members -- Rich Pesce, Mitch Brison and Earl Rigler -- will announce whether they have changed their minds.
But we agree with Mr. Murtagh's lawyer, Joseph Cheubein, who said the commission, in issuing its initial refusal to retest, was being "incredibly restrictive" and acting outside the spirit of the law.
After all, Mr. Murtagh didn't miss the test because he slept late or had other plans on March 23. He was incapacitated because he had been protecting the borough and carrying out a job he hoped to expand upon. For that he deserves consideration.
Mr. Pesce, the chairman of the commission, said in the course of the hearing that he wanted the rules to be applied evenly so that they are "fair to everyone." But in Mr. Murtagh's case, he was not being fair, and Mr. Cheubein was right when he asked rhetorically, "Ability to do a test on a particular day: Is that what it is [all about]?"
The Kennett Square Borough Code (section 11:11) gives the commission the power to "prescribe, amend and enforce rules and regulations" of Civil Service. That is strong documentation that the commission could very well make accommodations for Mr. Murtagh.
In this case, we contend that the commission can and should let Mr. Murtagh continue with the application process by going on to the next level of tests, and that it grant him permission to take the physical agility test as well.
We further agree with a suggestion made by certain borough insiders that any part-time officer should be given additional points in his or her application for having worked successfully as an officer.
Tests were made to find the best candidates -- whether it be for police forces or colleges. They are not ends in themselves. When an administrative body has to power to act with discretion, then it should take of up the mantle of fairness and wisdom and carry out its charge with honor.