JANUARY 08, 2010
Officials in a crime-infested urban U.S. city are seriously considering eliminating an entrance exam for its police department in order to boost the number of ethnic minorities on the force.
If the Chicago Police Department does in fact go through with its outlandish affirmative action plan, it would become the only law enforcement agency in a major American city without a police entrance exam that assures would-be officers are sufficiently qualified to serve and protect.
The brilliant idea of lowering standards in the name of further diversifying the 13,000-member force came from the notoriously corrupt officials who for years have run the Windy City. Law enforcement officials vehemently oppose the plan and assure that lowering the quality of candidates by accepting everyone who applies and meets the minimum education and residency requirements will only translate into poor police service for Chicago’s nearly 3 million residents.
That’s because a background check and psychiatric screening alone won’t eliminate unqualified candidates, according to a high-ranking Chicago Police official who ran the personnel department under two previous superintendents. Whenever you make it easier to be the police, he said, you do the citizens and the police department a disservice.
The head of Chicago’s local police union wasn’t quite so diplomatic, publicly stating that the idea of eliminating an entrance exam “sounds too stupid to be true.” The test is essential because an application process alone provides very limited information about candidates, he added.
Like in many U.S. cities, controversy has embroiled the process of hiring and promotions in Chicago’s police and fire departments. More than a decade ago Chicago dealt with the low number of minorities rising through the ranks by adjusting scores on the basis of race, a practice known as “race-norming.” The police department eliminated race-norming in the mid 1990s after it was ruled unconstitutional and only five minorities out of 114 officers got promoted after taking a sergeants’ exam.
In 2005 Chicago lawmakers announced that they were devising a plan to increase minorities in the police department and a few years later the city’s influential black ministers told the new police chief that hiring and promoting more African Americans is the only way to reestablish trust between police and the crime-infested black community.
Compromising standards to hire or promote more minorities has not come without consequences for cities. A recent Supreme Court ruling said a Connecticut city violated the 1964 Civil Rights (which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender or religion) when it denied white firefighters promotions because no minorities made the cut after taking the same test.
The promotion examinations of the 20 New Haven white firefighters were invalidated because no blacks scored high enough on the test required to rise to fire lieutenant and captain. At stake were about a dozen promotions and of the 118 candidates who took the test, 27 were black. Fearing a discrimination lawsuit, the city scrapped the test results and promoted no one.
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