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Milwaukee PD hiring rules get overhaul—with push from DoJ

Negotiations are under way in Milwaukee to come up with a new set of rules governing race- and gender-based hiring by the Police Department, following a recent Justice Department filing that suggested written and physical-agility tests given to applicants are discriminatory and illegal.

The Justice Department called for an end to the use of those tests and their replacement with tests that contain only include “job-related” components.

Since 1975, police hiring in Milwaukee has been governed by a consent decree mandating that at least 40 percent of new employees be minorities and at least 20 percent be women. In separate motions filed in U.S. District Court on Sept. 27, the city and Justice Department began a process aimed at devising new procedures that will satisfy U.S. Supreme Court decisions banning many race-specific programs.

The Justice Department said that the quota system has achieved satisfactory representation of Latinos and American Indians on the Police Department. But the DoJ motion, which was filed as a technical move related to a reverse-discrimination lawsuit filed by white officers in 1993, said the issue is open with respect to blacks, pending further review of the local labor market.

The Justice Department said the gap between the percentages of blacks and whites passing the written test and between the percentages of women and men passing the physical test was so wide that the tests have a clear “adverse impact” on blacks and women.

Kenneth Munson, executive director of the city’s Fire and Police Commission, told Law Enforcement News said the filing opens the “beginning of the negotiation process” that will mark the end of the consent decree, replacing it with new procedures to guarantee a Police Department that reflects its diverse constituency.

“There are general proposals before the Federal judge regarding this, but nothing detailed has been worked out,” Munson said. “Basically, what’s been proposed is the idea that the orders with specific quotas for hiring minorities has to end, and we’ve got to figure out what will be legally supportable for the future. Our proposal was that there be amounts of money set aside to develop a new test, and let interested parties participate in the process.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded in early October that there was “reasonable cause” to believe that Milwaukee illegally discriminated against black officers and applicants with respect to hiring, discipline, retaliation and working conditions.

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Published in Law Enforcement News
Dec. 15, 1996.
© 1996, LEN Inc.