The U.S. Justice Department believes that something is amiss in the way the Baltimore County Police Department chooses who to hire, and has decided to file a lawsuit to investigate.
According to the Baltimore Sun, on Tuesday the DOJ sued the Baltimore County government, claiming that a written test given to police officer recruits was intentionally biased against Black applicants.
A Tricky Loophole and a Slippery Slope
The agency believes the ploy worked because African American applicants have continuously failed the test at a much greater rate than white counterparts, resulting in fewer Black police officers making it into the force.
While the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, did not include exact pass rates, it did insist that the difference was “statistically significant.”
“A law enforcement agency should look like the community it serves,” County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., said in a statement. “As I have said repeatedly since taking office, I am committed to increasing diversity in the county’s Police Department.”
Olszewski also conceded that the test has been discontinued, although he did not specify the reason for the the decision and insists he’s created new positions within his administration to address diversity concerns.
“Recruitment has done its job in getting people to apply,” said Anthony Russell, president of the Blue Guardians, an organization that represents the best interests of minority officers. “The number of minority applicants, unfortunately, did not result in hires.”
Despite these reassurances, the lawsuit slams the Baltimore County Police Department for a “pattern or practice of discrimination” against Black applicants and is demanding the county “make remedial relief to those who suffered discrimination and adopt appropriate nondiscriminatory measures to correct the discrimination.”
Julian Jones, who is the lone Black person on the Baltimore County Council, says he was “taken aback” by the allegations, telling the Baltimore Sun, “I’m confident that the current administration is going to do any and everything necessary to make sure we’re not discriminating against people.”