Baltimore County, MD – The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) announced Tuesday that it had filed a lawsuit that alleges racial discrimination in the Baltimore County Police Department’s hiring process.
The discrimination suit, which was filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, said that Baltimore County police have engaged in “unintended employment discrimination” for entry-level and police cadet positions by using hiring examinations that were not job-related and disproportionately excluded black applicants.
The lawsuit, which named Baltimore County and its police department as defendants, said that Baltimore County’s human resources office had developed the tests the police department was using, and had changed it three times since 2009.
The test is multiple-choice and applicants must achieve a passing score to get hired by Baltimore County police.
From 2009 to 2013, the exam consisted of 85 questions divided up into the categories reading comprehension (15 questions), vocabulary (15 questions), spelling (20 questions), grammar (15 questions), and logical order/sequencing (20 questions), according to the lawsuit.
Applicants were required to score 75 percent or higher on the so-called “2009 test” to move forward in the Baltimore County police hiring process.
The lawsuit claimed that from 2009 to 2013, black applicants passed the test at a “statistically significant” lower rate than white applicants.
In 2014, Baltimore County revamped the test and added a note-taking/observation skills section that required candidates to review a photograph and answer 15 questions about it, according to the suit.
They also lowered the standards for a passing score.
Applicants were requires to score at least 70 percent on the so-called “2014 test” to continue on in the police department’s hiring process.
Again, black applicants scored lower than white applicants on the test at a “statistically significant” rate, the lawsuit alleged.
Yet another hiring exam was adopted in 2015 and used through 2016.
The so-called “2015 test” was identical to the 2014 test except that the observation skills section had a different photograph and questions.
The lawsuit claimed that the pass rate of black in 2015 continued to be a “statistically significant” lower number that white applicants.
The DoJ contended in the lawsuit that Baltimore County’s usage of the discriminatory tests resulted in fewer black people being hired for the police department than would have if they had used a “non-discriminatory screening device.”
The lawsuit said that Title VII was violated because the questions on the exam were not job-related and “consistent with business necessity.”
“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,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a press release that announced the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asked the court to order Baltimore County to stop using written tests to screen for police academy candidates and entry-level police officers and to change its application process to comply with non-discriminatory Title VII requirements.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. put out a statement on Tuesday that said the police department had already discontinued use of the offending test, The Baltimore Sun reported.
“A law enforcement agency should look like the community it serves,” Olszewski said. “As I have said repeatedly since taking office, I am committed to increasing diversity in the county’s Police Department.”
The DoJ has also called on the court to order Baltimore County to “provide make whole remedial relief to all persons who have suffered individual loss as a result of the discrimination alleged in this Complaint,” but it does not specify in what form that remedial relief would be bestowed upon the county’s victims.