Something is amiss in the Baltimore County Police Department and the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to get to the bottom of it.
From the Baltimore Sun:
The U.S. Department of Justice sued the Baltimore County government Tuesday, alleging that a written test for police officer recruits was unfairly biased against African American applicants.
African American applicants failed the test at a greater rate than white applicants, resulting in fewer African Americans being hired as police officers, the Department of Justice wrote in the lawsuit. The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, did not include the pass rates, but said the difference was “statistically significant.”
“A law enforcement agency should look like the community it serves,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said in a statement. “As I have said repeatedly since taking office, I am committed to increasing diversity in the county’s Police Department.”
Olszewski confirmed that the test has been discontinued, though he failed to specify when the decision to do so was implemented. He also noted that he’s created new positions within his administration in order to properly address diversity within the department and expressed interest in working with organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police and the Blue Guardians to rectify these issues.
“Recruitment has done its job in getting people to apply,” Anthony Russell, president of the Blue Guardians, an organization that represents minority police officers, said. “The number of minority applicants, unfortunately, did not result in hires.”
The test has taken numerous forms throughout the years, but its current iteration is comprised of 100 questions. The first 15 focus on the applicant’s observational skills, while the remaining questions cover reading comprehension, “logical ordering,” writing and grammar, and data interpretation.
The lawsuit accuses the Baltimore County Police Department of a “pattern or practice of discrimination” against black applicants and not only requests that the test be eliminated, but that the county “make remedial relief to those who suffered discrimination and adopt appropriate nondiscriminatory measures to correct the discrimination,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
In response to the lawsuit, Julian Jones, the only black person on the Baltimore County Council, was described as “taken aback” by the allegations.
“I’m confident that the current administration is going to do any and everything necessary to make sure we’re not discriminating against people,” Jones told the Baltimore Sun.