>Police Supervisor Testing Process Used In Ridgewood Cited As Discriminatory
Suit calls N.J. police test biased
New Jersey’s Civil Service test for police officers seeking a promotion to sergeant discriminates against African-American and Hispanic candidates, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday.
Even African-Americans and Hispanics who pass the multiple-choice test are less likely to receive promotions because their scores are lower, according to the 10-page lawsuit filed against the state and the Civil Service Commission.
The suit seeks to block the state from using the test.
At least 120 municipal and county police departments in New Jersey, including the Village of Ridgewood, have used the discriminatory system from 2000 to 2008, according to Department of Justice spokesman Alejandro Miyar.
Eighteen of the state’s 20 largest cities and townships, including Paterson, use the same test.
“This complaint should send a clear message to all public employers that employment practices with unlawful discriminatory impact on account of race or national origin will not be tolerated,” said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.
“The Justice Department will take all necessary action to ensure that such discriminatory practices are eliminated and that the victims of such practices are made whole.”
Questions changed yearly
Civil Service Commission spokesman Mark Perkiss said the test is developed internally and administered annually with different questions each year.
“We’ve been testing for this position for decades,” Perkiss said.
He did not comment on the contents of the test. He referred questions on the lawsuit to the Attorney General’s Office, but the spokesman there, David Wald, declined comment.
Newark Police Department spokesman Detective Hubert Henderson said the approximately four-hour test covers traffic and criminal laws, as well as state guidelines.
When preparing for the test, Henderson said, candidates study two or three textbooks and sometimes take courses costing $2,500 to $3,000.
He said he had never heard any discrimination complaints involving the test.
The Department of Justice is arguing the state has violated Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination, because it hasn’t proved that the test, which some departments require for promotions to sergeant, is an essential tool for determining fitness for the job.
Between 2000 and 2008, 89 percent of the white candidates who took the test passed it. That rate compared with 73 percent of African-American candidates and 77 percent of Hispanic candidates who took the test, the lawsuit says.
“For whatever reason, the test as it currently exists has a disparate impact,” Miyar said.
“We don’t have a problem with the use of a written test, but if the state wishes to do so it must not have a disparate impact.”
The lawsuit says the state and the Civil Service Commission “have pursued and continue to pursue policies and practices that discriminate against African-American and Hispanic candidates and that deprive or tend to deprive African-Americans and Hispanics of employment opportunities.”