When the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit alleging that an entrance examination used by the Louisiana State Police for the past five years discriminated against black applicants, state attorneys wasted no time in responding.
Within three hours after the suit was filed on Aug. 29, attorneys representing the state of Louisiana and the Justice Department had reached an agreement on a proposed settlement that would create a new written examination and pay $1 million to black applicants who are deemed otherwise qualified but who failed the exam between August 1991 and May 1996.
The settlement, which still needs the approval of a Federal judge, would also offer remedies to black troopers who might have been discriminated against in promotions.
In its suit, the Justice Department charged that the agency discriminated “by using written examinations for the entry-level sworn position of State Police cadet…that disproportionately exclude African-American from employment…and by failing or refusing to take appropriate action to eliminate the use of these written examinations.”
The Justice Department said that the practice resulted in 66 percent of the white applicants passing the exam, compared to a pass rate of only 25 percent among blacks who took the test. Of 2,475 white applicants, 315, or about 13 percent, were appointed to State Police cadet positions. Of 1,132 black applicants, 98, or about 9 percent, received appointments. White applicants made up 76 percent of all State Police cadets, while black applicants made up 24 percent.
“If the appointment process had been race-neutral, one would expect that 32 more African-Americans would have been appointed as State Police cadets than were so appointed,” the Justice Department stated in a memorandum filed with the court outlining its findings.
The Government asked the U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge for an order blocking the State Police from any discrimination with respect to employment and an end to the use of the disputed written examination for cadets.
Under the terms of the proposed consent decree that was filed on the heels of the lawsuit, the State Police denies that it has engaged in any practice of discrimination but, “being desirous of settling this action without litigation,” agrees to changes in the examination, which will be made by a Federally approved consulting firm, and other provisions requested by the Justice Department.
U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola scheduled a hearing Nov. 6 on the proposed settlement, after which he is expected to evaluate and perhaps approve it, said Keith Pyburn, an attorney representing the State Police.
“The judge will hear objections and consider the proposed decree during the hearing,” Pyburn told LEN. “I am sure that this judge will give the matter serious consideration in advance of the hearing, consider any information developed at the hearing and issue a hearing forthwith. I anticipate a settlement shortly thereafter.”
Pyburn said the consent decree “provides for the development of a better and fairer selection procedure” for applicants seeking cadet positions. “That process is currently underway,” he said, adding that a new test has been administered to prospective cadets and its results will be analyzed by state officials.
“We anticipate and firmly expect that we will find a job-related test that both helps select better police officers and will be fairer,” said Pyburn.