FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association has filed a grievance against the Fort Pierce Police Department, calling into question whether recent promotions lists were created according to rules laid out in union contracts.
Union Staff Representative Al Boettjer said the complaint alleges failing grades were curved to add additional officers to promotions lists. According to city records, a passing grade is 74 points and higher.
“If that’s the policy, comply with the policy,” Boettjer said.
In August 2019, records show 39 officers took a promotions test to be considered for either a Lieutenant or Sergeant position.
Records from the outside testing vendor showed five officers passed the sergeants test. Those records show just one officer passed the lieutenants test.
According to Boettjer, the promotions list that was sent out by the city’s human resources manager showed different outcomes.
The city’s promotions list said 15 officers passed the sergeant’s test and four officers passed the lieutenant’s test. Their grades were higher than the scores Boettjer said were released by the testing vendor.
Boettjer is concerned grades might have been curved, and in the grievance, the Police Union says curving the minimum score to achieve additional candidates is in direct violation of the contractual bargaining agreement.
Boettjer says officers have also expressed their concerns to him about grades potentially being curved.
“If you couldn’t pass the exam, why would the public expect somebody who didn’t pass to be the one teaching the people who are learning how to do the job?” Boettjer said.
He says it is a potential disservice to the community, but especially to officers who are working hard to be promoted.
“The biggest disservice to me is to the officers who put the time in when they’re off to study and do the very best they can do. When they pass the test, to be put in the same position as people who didn’t pass the test and maybe even get passed over, I don’t think that’s right.”
In a written response to the complaint, Police Chief Diane Hobley-Burney said, “There was no contract violation demonstrated. Therefore, the relief is denied.” The relief requested by the union, according to the grievance, is re-certifying the 2019 sergeants and lieutenants promotional exam with the original scores provided by the outside testing vendor.
“The chief has expressed she wants to promote who she wants to promote, I understand that. I think we have a good working relationship. We disagree on this issue,” Boettjer said.
While this grievance is under review, promotions are on pause, according to Boettjer.
“It’s kind of to prevent them from promoting somebody who actually didn’t pass the test.”
Next, the complaint will be forwarded to the City Manager.
Boettjer says the union is prepared to take this issue to an arbitrator.