WASHINGTON - The federal government has reached a settlement with the state of New Jersey in a lawsuit alleging the state discriminated against black and Hispanic police officers.
The Department of Justice argued a written test New Jersey used since 2000 to rank candidates for promotion to the rank of police sergeant disproportionately excluded minority candidates. They also argued the tests weren't necessary to prove the candidates could do the job.
The settlement requires the state to pay $1 million into a fund to reimburse those who were harmed. Those officers may also be given priority offers to become sergeants.
“Police officers, whose daily responsibilities include protecting the public and ensuring the safety of others, have the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of race or national origin on the job,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will challenge discrimination in employment on the basis of race or national origin, whether that discrimination is intentional or the result of promotional practices that have discriminatory impact. The department commends New Jersey for working to put in place new promotion procedures that comply with Title VII and to provide relief to those African-American and Hispanic officers who have been harmed by the prior practices challenged by the department.”
Under state law, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission is responsible for establishing procedures for the promotion of law enforcement officers in local jurisdictions participating in the state’s civil service system.
According to the United States’ complaint, the state’s pass/fail use of its written examination for screening candidates for promotion to police sergeant, and its use of candidates’ scores on the written examination to certify candidates in descending rank order on eligible lists from which appointments were made, resulted in a disparate impact upon African-Americans and Hispanics.
The DOJ stated, "The use of the exam in this manner was inappropriate for several reasons, including the fact that the pass/fail use of the written exam did not usefully distinguish between candidates who were qualified to perform the job of police sergeant, nor did the rank-order use of the exam meaningfully distinguish between candidates who were more or less qualified to do the job."
The Justice Department filed a motion requesting that the court provisionally enter a consent decree executed by the parties setting forth the terms of the settlement; and schedule an initial fairness hearing regarding the terms of the decree.
The consent decree requires that New Jersey no longer use the written examination challenged by the United States for selecting police sergeants and requires that New Jersey develop a new lawful selection procedure that complies with Title VII.