MOUNT VERNON — During a Mount Vernon News investigation into Mount Vernon Police Chief Mike Merrilees and Sgt. Robert “Kit” Morgan, the News uncovered public records that show that two police department employees were offered the same test for the second chief’s test in 2006 as they took for the captain’s position in 2004.
Merrilees’ personnel file included a “Police — Promotional Tests History.” The one-page document outlines when promotional tests for the captain and chief position were offered between 2004 and 2006.
On Aug. 30, 2004, the “Lead Supervisor 2” test was offered for the police captain’s position. Those participating in the testing included Mike Merrilees, Jeff Jacobs, Tom Bumpus and Fred Gerber.
Merrilees scored the highest with a raw score of 84. The remaining scores ranged from 71 to 76. Because all scores were passing, each candidate was given service credit based on years of service to the city. Merrilees finished on top with a final score of 92.4 percent. He was subsequently promoted to captain.
Following the retirement and death of former Chief Tom Bartlett, a promotional exam for the chief’s position was offered on Aug. 4, 2006. The test, “Fundamental Upper Command,” was taken by Merrilees, Jacobs, George Hartz and Troy Glazier. Because no one passed this test with at least a score of 70, a second chief’s test was offered in October of the same year. The same four applicants took the second test in addition to corporals Roger Monroe and Mark Perkins.
The “Lead Supervisor 2” test was given during the second try to place a chief in office.
According to Tony DeIuliis, civil service merit administrator, the test offered in 2004 and 2006 were “essentially” the same tests.
“That means they were the same test from the firm. Now the firm may have changed some questions, but they did not change the title of the test,” De Iuliis said. “Occasionally the firm will change questions within a test but they will keep the study options pretty much the same.”
The city of Mount Vernon contracts with Industrial/Organizational Solutions Inc., Westchester, Ill., to purchase and score civil service tests. The company also provides a list of study materials that includes specific books and chapters to study.
“The 2004 and 2006 test had the same title and I believe, based on what the one rep talked to me about when I first got in that situation, the test was similar. But because there was a two-year gap and because a couple of things had changed, there wouldn’t be any problem with that.”
DeIuliis said he did not feel that offering the Lead Supervisor 2 test again in 2006 provided any advantage to those who may have already taken the test.
“The changes in the two I don’t think were tremendous, but there were changes and I don’t think anyone got an unfair advantage,” De Iuliis said. “I don’t want to give anyone an unfair advantage, I want to give everyone a fair indicator of that person’s ability.”
In talking with the representatives with I/O Solutions, DeIuliis said he was told that studies have shown that those taking civil service tests generally forget the information they study after 60 days. The News made contact with I/O Solutions to learn more information regarding the study, however, the company declined to comment.
Hewlet G. McFarlane, PhD., Kenyon College Professor of Neuroscience, told the News there are different kinds of memory and several theories of how the memory function operates.
“The Consolidation Theory which suggests that memories, once made, are fixed and stable for the duration of their existence,” McFarlane said. “Reconsolidation Theory suggests that when recalled, memories become unstable and must be restabilized once more to be available for future recall.”
Although there remains an ongoing debate about memory retention, McFarlane said when we have access to some piece of information and are later reintroduced to the same information, the brain should recognize it.
“Having previous experience with the materials confers some advantage when faced with the same materials at a later date,” McFarlane said. “This is similar to having multiple trials at a task; the more trials you have the better you become at whatever the task is; this is essentially a practice effect.”
The results of the second chief’s test show Merrilees scored one point higher than when he took the test for the captain’s position. Jacobs saw a four-point increase over his 2004 score.
The News issued a public records request for copies of the Lead Supervisor 2 tests to compare the questions, however, DeIuliis said the city’s contract with I/O Solutions requires that test materials are destroyed or sent back to the company after the tests are issued.
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