Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The dividends of Hope and Change

A co-worker brought this article to my attention.  The US Department of Justice has filed suit against the State of New Jersey regarding promotional testing practices regarding the position of Police Sergeant.

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 Thursday.

"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."

For those of you unfamiliar with how police promotions are obtained in New Jersey let me explain the process.  Many county and municipal agencies rely on the state to conduct promotional testing.  In doing so there is an established standard by which candidates are judged.  Some municipalites use alternative testing.  This practice gives the municipality greater latitude in who gets promoted.  In the Civil Service testing model candidates are scored based on a highly competitive written examination.  Authorities must appoint a candidate from the top three on the list.

The subject matter these tests are based on typically include topics like, criminal law, search and seizure law, Attorney General's guidelines and the US and NJ constitutions.  These exams are multiple choice and are comprehensive.  There are also questions regarding basic supervision.

To adequately prepare for these examinations a successful candidate will have to read and comprehend several thousand pages of written material.  Preparation usually starts as early as February for testing in September or October.  Many candidates will attend promotional groups which are in many ways as challenging as graduate school level classes.  In my experience these exams are an accurate measure of knowledge in these areas and the topics tested are essential elements of the job.  Apparently the DOJ disagrees.

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 determing fitness for the job.

Why must the state prove that this test is not discriminatory.  It would stand to reason that if a party feels they are being discriminated against it would be their burden to prove it.  It would seem that under the current administration this is no longer necessary.

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."

This is a bunch of crapola.  I can tell you from experience.  Any candidate willing to bunker down for an entire summer at the expense of time with his family to prepare for this exam will do well.  Any candidate.  This is a clear case of looking for a convenient excuse to explain away failure.  It is the ant and grasshopper tale set in the Obama Nation.  Except the grasshopper has the DOJ on his side this time.  Looks like as usual, the ant will have to work twice as hard to support someone else.  I guess I should not have chuckled so loudly at Chicago PD for contemplating the elimination of their written entrance exam.

No comments: