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Justice Department sues Baltimore for discriminating against black police applicants

By
Darryl Coote

Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice filed a discrimination lawsuit against Baltimore County and the Baltimore County Police Department on Tuesday, accusing them of administering a police recruitment test that is biased against black applicants.

According to the complaint filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, since 2013 the police department administered a written exam that disproportionally excluded black applicants from entry-level and cadet police positions.

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The lawsuit accuses the county of administering an exam that tested skills that are "not job related" for the positions being recruited for and more suited for "business necessity."

There were at least three versions of the exam administered since 2013, testing an applicant's writing, reading comprehension, vocabulary, logical sequencing and other skills. Applicants were graded on a pass/fail system where a recruit must score at least 70 percent on most versions of the exam to be eligible to continue with the recruitment process.

"As a result of its use of these written examinations, Baltimore County has hired fewer African American applicants as BCPD entry-level police officers and police cadets since Jan. 1, 2013, then it would have had it used a non-discriminatory screening device," the complaint said.

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The justice department did not report the disparity between black and white applications who passed the exam but said its finding were "statistically significant."

"Employers must be mindful that an employment selection device, like a test, must be shown to be job-related if it disproportionately excludes members of one of Title VII's protected groups," said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr., said in a statement that the county has stopped administering the test and that his office has created two diversity-focused positions for the county and for the police department in order to create a force that better represents its community.

"A law enforcement agency should look like the community it serves," he said. "As I have said repeatedly since taking office, I am committed to increasing diversity in the county's police department."

The Department of Justice is suing to bar the county from using the written exams that discriminate against black applications, provide "remedial relief" to those harmed by the test and adopt non-discriminatory measures.

Olszewski said his office and the police department are "willing to negotiate with the Department of Justice to resolve this matter."

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