With Civil Service No Longer In The Mix, Belmont Police Readies Job Offers To Fill Long-standing Shortfall

Photo: Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac

For the first time since leaving the Massachusetts Civil Service hiring system in 2023, the Belmont Police Department is close to hiring three new officers to close a chronic decade-long shortfall.

“It’s a new era. We’re excited about it, and we think it’s going to help us in the long run,” said Belmont Police Chief James MacIsaac.

In the past five years under Civil Service, “we’ve had a tremendous amount of trouble trying to find candidates to fill these positions,” said Patrice Garvin, town administrator, at a meeting of the Select Board .

Over the past four years, the number of acceptable applicants coming from the state’s list was limited: four candidates in 2020, three in 2021, two in 2022, and just a single candidate in 2023. The resulting impact was undermanned and continuous large budget payouts in overtime.

“There was a hiring problem that we felt was becoming a crisis,” said Roy Epstein, select board chair. “And the only real solution was to withdraw from Civil Service.”

And since leaving Civil Service and creating its own hiring policy, MacIsaac has been freed to venture out into an open market of potential personnel. He also didn’t have to wait until July for civil service to release a list the candidates who successfully passed its test and were available to communities; he can post positions the moment they become open.

“Over the last month, we’ve entered a new era in both retaining and hiring police officers, and … it’s a new experience for me,” said MacIsaac.

“We posted an opening on May 7, and we’ve had 15 candidates apply, so far. We have conducted six interviews and will be conducting more interviews next week,” said MacIsaac. As of the last week in June, “the department has made four conditional offers of employment,” he said.

Of the four candidates, one has already completed the background checks and MacIsaacs hope to have the applicant in the Police Academy in September, while two of the four are post-certified officers, which means if they accept the position and pass the background process, would be able to start immediately. MacIsaac said two of the candidates identify as Hispanic and speak Spanish, which would increase diversity on the police force.

But until they sign on the dotted line, Belmont is in competition with neighboring communities, including Watertown, for the prospective candidates, a situation MacIsaac said was “unthinkable” just a decade ago.

“We’re hoping that they’re going to choose to work here,” said MacIsaac.

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