Hartford lawsuit says oral exam favored female candidates

Ten male police officers in Hartford, Conn., have filed a lawsuit alleging they were passed over for promotion to sergeant in favor of minorities and women, whom the officers claim were steered to a panel of examiners that gave them high scores, clearing the way for their promotion.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Hartford on Aug. 30, alleges that the oral tests administered to a group of sergeant candidates in May 1995 were discriminatory. John R. Williams, a New Haven attorney representing the plaintiffs, who were the top scorers in the written portion of the promotional exam, said they did so poorly on the oral part and “finished so far down on the list that they couldn’t hope to be promoted.”

Williams said there were four panels of oral-test examiners who were to give the candidates scores based on their performance on the oral examination. “One hundred percent of the women applicants were steered to the same panel, while the males, in many instances were steered away. The pass rate was far, far higher for the women steered to the one specific panel,” Williams told Law Enforcement News.

All 10 female officers taking the test were directed to a specific panel, which examined only 13 white male officers, while the other panels each tested 23 white officers. That panel, the only one with a female member, questioned 31 officers and passed all but one, the lawsuit claims. Since June 1995, 33 officers have been promoted to sergeant from a list of 150 applicants who passed both exams.

“We have plenty of eyewitnesses about the actual steering taking place,” Williams said. “It seems to me that it’s about as clear a case as you could ask for.”

Williams has requested a temporary injunction on the practice, but no action has been taken on that motion since city officials have not yet responded to the lawsuit. The officers are asking for a permanent end to the practice, promotions with accompanying back pay and benefits, and unspecified punitive damages, he said.


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