Thin build, messy hair no bar to service as a Boston police officer, court rules

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today psychological evaluations of a prospective Boston police officer who passed a civil-service exam were too vague to keep her from donning a BPD uniform.

The ruling is a victory for both Jill Kavaleski, who was rejected three times by a pair of department psychiatrists, and the state Civil Service Commission, which had ruled those psychiatrists failed to show there was really anything wrong with Kavaleski. The ruling comes as a response to an appeal by the Boston Police Department of the commission's ruling.

Kavaleski, who has two graduate degrees and who works for the city veterans services department, was offered a job by the New York Police Department after passing that city's civil-service and psychological tests, but turned it down in hopes of getting a job with her hometown police force.

Starting in 2006, she was offered a BPD job three times, conditioned upon passing a psychological review that included two standardized tests and interviews with two department psychiatrists. All three times, the pair said she didn't pass psychological muster.

In her third review, one of the psychiatrists wrote:

In summary, despite her continued effort to be more open and flexible, Ms. Kavaleski continues to present as a psychologically inflexible, interpersonally stiff woman whose extreme defensiveness limits her capacity to reflect on her own decision-making, responses, actions or impact on others. Her concrete cognitive style is equally limiting and is likely related to what appears to be a characterologic rigidity. These limitations would interfere with Ms. Kavaleski's ability to manage the duties of a Boston [p]olice officer.

But the state's highest court said the pair were unwilling to change their views over time and that they kept harping on the fact that Kavaleski was very thin and had "messy" hair, both of which they used as part of their case that she would be psychologically unfit to serve as a police officers.

The court said the police department failed to provide evidence that the Civil Service Commission erred in finding the psychiatrists had ruled against Kavaleski on "mere conjecture" that such things as concluding that her thinness meant she had a possible eating disorder.

The record supports the commission's conclusions that [one of the psychiatrist]'s opinions were "substantially subjective determinations" that were "insufficiently factually supported," and that [the psychiatrist] did not provide a single "convincing situational example" to support her conclusion that Kavaleski's "defensiveness" and "characterologic rigidity" would interfere with police work in an "objective real-world context."

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      Comments

      "characterologic rigidity"

      I find it intriguing that police psychologists are deploying the theories of Wilhelm Reich in their hiring decisions. Are prospective employees required to sit in orgone accumulators?

      In any case, having all BPD cops to read Reich's "Mass Psychology of Fascism" probably wouldn't do any harm.