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Lawsuit challenges civil service exams
Black applicants say test is unfair
By Matt Viser, Globe Correspondent | February 5, 2005

Four black men who were rejected for jobs by the Lynn Fire Department have filed a lawsuit against the city and the state's Human Resources Division alleging that the exam used for hiring firefighters in Massachusetts is unconstitutional.

The nine-page lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Boston, adds a wrinkle to the debate over 30-year-old court-ordered affirmative-action policies by questioning whether the state's emphasis on Civil Service exams is making it more difficult for minorities to get jobs. The suit could change the way that police and fire departments throughout the state make their hiring decisions.

The suit is being litigated by the same firm that recently won lawsuits against the Boston police and fire departments and forced the city to abandon its race-based hiring practices. A similar lawsuit was filed in December against the Newton Fire Department because it has continued to hire based on race even though it has met parity with the community.

"Our office has been involved in ending these quota systems," said Harold L. Lichten, one of the attorneys involved in the case. "But by doing that, the question becomes what comes after these quota systems? After they're struck down, how do you ensure fairness in hiring so that minorities are represented in their communities?"

Lynn, like many large cities in Massachusetts, has become increasingly diverse, and the police and fire departments have struggled to keep up with the demographic shifts. Between 1990 and 2000, the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in the city of 89,000 nearly doubled.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, another lawyer prosecuting the case, said blacks and Hispanics constitute 8 percent of the 179-member Lynn Fire Department, while they make up 29 percent of the city's overall population.

Lynn was one of dozens of cities and towns placed under a federal court order in the 1970s to improve minority hiring in fire and police departments. In November, a federal judge ruled that the Boston Police Department could no longer follow its policy of hiring one black or Hispanic firefighter for every white firefighter, because it had achieved racial parity at the entry level. A similar ruling in 2003 by a federal appeals court found that the Boston Fire Department had also achieved racial balance and must abandon its affirmative-action hiring policy. The Lynn Fire Department was removed from that decree list in the early 1990s. Its Police Department was removed in 1988.

Lynn's fire chief, Edward F. Higgins Jr., said his hands are tied by the state's civil service laws in hiring more minorities. He said there is a need in Lynn for more Spanish-speaking firefighters, but there's no mechanism for him to hire them under the current guidelines.

"Diversity is an absolute must in this day and age. But we can only hire in the confines of the civil service list," he said.

Under the state's civil service laws, applicants for police and fire positions must take a 100-question multiple-choice exam. The state then provides a list to cities and towns that ranks the applicants in order of how they scored.

The suit argues that using that method makes it more difficult for minorities to be considered since they typically have lower test scores. Lichten said that 69 percent of white applicants scored a 90 or above on the test in 2000, compared with 33 percent of minority candidates.

Lichten argues that a pass-fail test that judges competency would be more equitable. "We're not asking that they re-impose the quota system," Lichten said. "The key is to develop a hiring system that ensures that the best candidates are hired."

The four plaintiffs in the suit took the civil service exam in 2001, scored between 84 and 94 out of 100, and then were in a pool of applicants who were considered for jobs between 2002 and 2004. During that time, about 20 firefighters were hired by the Lynn Fire Department, but none were minorities, according to the suit.

On a more recent exam, given in November, the plaintiffs scored between 70 and 94.

All four plaintiffs are Lynn residents and have "had a lifelong goal to become a firefighter," according to the suit.

"A firefighter and police officer, you don't have to get a 99," said Kevin Bradley, a black firefighter hired in Lynn 28 years ago under the consent decree. His two sons are among the plaintiffs. "There are other things that are important."

http://www.boston.com/news/local/ma...02/05/lawsuit_challenges_civil_service_exams/
 

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The same law firm that just fought and won for Boston, is now representing the opposite side in Lynn. Talk about no shame!
 

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What's the hell, I might as well sue all the people who scored higher than me. The test must be unfair if I didnt do good! :lol:

Seriously, though,this is a joke and that Lichten guy seems like a jackass with a huge ego.
 

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I'm a lousy basketball player, can I sue the NBA because their standards are too high? Isn't diversity in the workforce important in the NBA too? Sounds crazy right? After all I'm just not good enough of a basketball player to play in the NBA and I have no inherit right to play pro ball. Its kind of like a guy/girl who cannot score well enough on a standardized written exam and feels they should still get a shot because its a "life long dream" and fire and police departments need diversity. Hell, my dream it to be a power forward (a 5'10" power forward :lol: ) and I know the Irish are not equally represented on the Celtics so I think I'll give Attorney Lichten a ring Monday morning....maybe I'll be in before next year's pre-season.

Seriously though best man/woman for the job and preference given on minority status is reverse discrimination.
 

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if you score a 70 on the Civil Service Exam you are:
1. stupid and shouldn't be a cop
2. don't care and shouldn't be a cop
 

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oh my god are u serious. this is silly! a minority who scores a 70 has a better chance of getting a job than a non-minority that scores a 98 and now they want more? whats next people of ethnicity don't have to pass a standardized testing? that won't be enough either i am sure then it will be minorities don't have to test at all. this is just damn silly!
 

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Just wait until they start offering the test in 27 different languages, like thre license test at the registry and abolish the time limit while they are at it. "Not done yet after 4 hours for a 100 question exam?, Take your time". This will inevitably lead to proctors actually reading the exam to the applicant and explaining the questions. What's next? The test is a joke and simple enough as it is!!! What more do you want?
 

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Wow... this state just keeps getting better and better. :roll:

People can give me crap about looking into Vermont all they want... hey, at least its not MA.
 

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Gil";p="55643 said:
Lawsuit challenges civil service exams
Black applicants say test is unfair
By Matt Viser, Globe Correspondent | February 5, 2005

"The key is to develop a hiring system that ensures that the best candidates are hired."
IT IS! You can't call a test unfair just because minorities score low. Then go study harder and take time to learn about the job. Here's a another "let's dumb down the test so we can have a diverse, retarded, inept department".
:DP:
 

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First of all, you can't "dumb down" a test that is given for a job who's only requirements are: 21y.o.a., no felonies, drivers license, and a G.E.D.!!! The mere fact that sooooo many people score in the 90's and get 100's is proof positive that the test is to easy. I hope I don't offend anyone, but the truth is the test creates a rank order that means nothing!! It's an archaic system that was implemented to combat nepotism and patronage. The whole system needs to go...

To clarify the race issue, it is not a matter of the powers that be deciding to hire "dumber" minorities. It is strictly a numbers game. Let's say 100 white males took the test and there was a normal test score distribution (20% failed, 20% aced it, and everyone else fell in the middle). That gives 20 white male candidates who aced it. What screws everything up is that so many fewer minorities/women take the test, and are, therefore, under-represented. For grins, lets call the women/minority population 10 candidates. The 20% who aced it would produce only 2 candidates.

So, to address the disparity, they select people with lower scores. It does not mean that equal numbers of white males and minorities took the test, the minorities scored lower, but got hired.

The problem with the system is that the individual who scored a 100 and doesn't get hired gets screwed, and naturally carries some animosity. To fix it, the system needs to get dumped and minority and women recruitment needs to be increased so that you create a pool of applicants that reflects the population, without hiring people with lower scores. Look, there I go dreaming again.... 8)
 

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IF YOU CANT PASS A CIVIL SERVICE TEST YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE A POLICE OFFICER/FIREFIGHTER! I went into the fire exam last year with NO understanding of ANYTHING having to do with fire, no understanding of the test at all, nothing. I still finished in WAY under 4 hours AND got a 90. If people don't pass, too frigging bad. I'm sick of everyone playing the racial card. What happens if a 25 year old white male doesn't pass the test? THEY GET A DIFFERENT JOB!
 

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First of all, if not enough Minorities score well, then that's just the way it is. You hire the best candidates, regardless of race. If 5 "minorities" take the test and only one scores in the correct range, you hire the one. The same goes for Whites.

There are already Minority Recruitment drives and many of them are an abject failure. Many of the candidates quit the Academy as they never really wanted to be Police in the first place. Why would you try to shove a job like being a Cop down someone's throat? If someone doesn't want it, why talk someone into it?

As far as: "an archaic system that was implemented to combat nepotism and patronage. The whole system needs to go... "

Why does it need to go? Nepotism and Patronage are alive and well in Mass. CC is probably the only thing preventing everybody and their brother needing to "know someone" like in other States.
 

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Don't be mistaken, I don't think the current hiring practices are appropriate. What I was saying is that IF they are going to attempt to address the race issue, the way it is being done is innappropriate.

The reason I say dump the system is that it does not measure the "best candidate". Dump the system and replace it with one that carries some legitimate measure of job related competency.

The current practices perpetuate racism. For every minority hired, there are a bunch of white males who assume that "that guy got my job" without knowing what the individual scored on the test, how they performed in the academy, or how they are performing now on the job.

I agree with you bbelichick, it should be simple, high score gets the job. Unfortunately the current test has no relevance. I visited a country where people entered the "Police Institute". They spent three years there,similar to a military academy. Your job at the end was based on your rank order and specific skills. Physical fitness standouts went special operations, egg-heads went to tax police, etc. That is true "best candidate gets the job". Too bad we'll never see it.
 

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chief801";p="55888 said:
Don't be mistaken, I don't think the current hiring practices are appropriate. What I was saying is that IF they are going to attempt to address the race issue, the way it is being done is innappropriate.

The reason I say dump the system is that it does not measure the "best candidate". Dump the system and replace it with one that carries some legitimate measure of job related competency.

The current practices perpetuate racism. For every minority hired, there are a bunch of white males who assume that "that guy got my job" without knowing what the individual scored on the test, how they performed in the academy, or how they are performing now on the job.

I agree with you bbelichick, it should be simple, high score gets the job. Unfortunately the current test has no relevance. I visited a country where people entered the "Police Institute". They spent three years there,similar to a military academy. Your job at the end was based on your rank order and specific skills. Physical fitness standouts went special operations, egg-heads went to tax police, etc. That is true "best candidate gets the job". Too bad we'll never see it.
How much taxpayer money should we spend on these recruiting drives? The civil service test is the most cost effective measure out there, in my opinion. What are we supposed to have those bogus "assesment centers" that assess every single candidate with the cost in the millions? Besides, Wait to you see how "fair" those tests will be......
 

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I have to agree, that the Commonwealths civil service testing process needs to be changed. What I don't understand, is why the present standards need to be lowered for minorities in order to get them to pass? It's been awhile since my last civil service test, but if I remember correctly, it was based on general knowledge.
I had been through the Brockton school system and there was diversity in the class rooms. Everyone was given the same opportunities in the education process. Those that applied themselves made out alright and those that didn't, didn't. I have to think, that this is true throughout the state.
So, if the current civil service testing is geared for those with a high school or G.E.D. education and they are having trouble passing it, regardless of what color or race, then I have to say, find another career.
I think that the testing process should be geared for the job. If a police career, questions should be law enforcement oriented, if fire, then fire fighter oriented.
It's time to get off the racial, minority merry-go-round and make the positive changes needed to the civil service process even if that means dumping civil service all together.
 

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Jack807,
They haven't lowered the scores for minorities to pass. I don't believe that anyone that fails the test is eligible for a job.
 
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