Ed Balint, Canton (Ohio) Repository, June 27, 2007
The police officer accused of killing his girlfriend and her unborn child was given consideration to be hired on the city force because he was black, according to the civil service director, police chief and city records.
Bobby L. Cutts Jr. scored 70th out of 98 applicants who passed the civil service exam for police officer in March 2000. Cutts, however, was interviewed and ultimately hired over about 40 other candidates, the vast majority of whom were white men. The reason is a city law that required black candidates be considered if less than roughly 18 percent of the police force was black, said Samuel Sliman, civil service director.
“It gets you skipped up (the eligibility list) in consideration,” said Police Chief Dean McKimm. “It brings you to the forefront of other candidates who actually scored higher than you; whether you think it’s fair or not, that’s the net effect of the (city) ordinance.”
Cutts, 30, of Plain Township, is accused of killing Jessie M. Davis, 26, in her Lake Township duplex June 14, according to court papers. Cutts is charged with two counts of murder, including the death of Davis’ unborn baby girl, which Davis’ family members contend Cutts fathered. Davis was 9 months pregnant and due July 3.
The city hiring law, which sets goals but not mandates, is still in effect, but was modified recently after the Ohio Civil Rights Commission reviewed the law’s constitutionality. Under a conciliation agreement and consent order with the commission, the city aspires to hire a sufficient number of blacks and women in the safety forces to avoid a pattern or practice of discrimination, reflecting the number of blacks in the city population—currently 18.26 percent.
HIRING OF CUTTS
In the 1980s, the Stark County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued the city to force the hiring of minorities in the police and fire departments. City officials settled the lawsuit, agreeing to hire one black for every white, or one black for two whites, as the 10-year court-supervised consent decree progressed.
The order expired in 1992; in 1994, City Council approved a law that included goals, not requirements, of at least 18 percent blacks and 5 percent women in the police and fire departments.
When Cutts took the exam in 2000, the Police Department was below the minimum percentage of blacks, meaning Cutts, based on his race, got consideration over about 40 other candidates who scored higher on the civil service test, which includes written and physical agility portions and an interview with the civil service director, Sliman said, plus bonus points awarded for college degrees, city residency, military experience and certification as a peace officer.
Under the city law, consideration means the minority candidate receives a background check and interview before a five-member interview committee, Sliman said.
From the spring 2000 eligibility list, the city hired two applicants who scored the highest, then hired candidates at the 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th and 23rd slots—all white men—before leaping to Cutts, who scored 70th out of 98. Within that gap, one black man was passed over because he would exceed the maximum age by the hiring date; a black woman was pregnant and not interested in the job any longer; and the city apparently was unable to contact another black man, Sliman said. Test-takers who scored 75th and 79th also were hired—a black man and white woman, respectively, according to civil service records.
Sliman said it’s unfair to connect the minority hiring policy with the crimes Cutts is accused of perpetrating.
McKimm, who became chief after Wyatt retired, was a captain and on the five-member committee who interviewed Cutts. On the final composite grade, McKimm gave Cutts the lowest score—6.803—among the committee members, compared to the next lowest score of 7.46 and the highest of 8.4. Cutts’ final grade was an average of the five individual grades—7.616 out of a perfect 10.
McKimm said he equates the score to roughly 76 percent, and he considers 70 passing.
REASON FOR THE POLICY
The policy is still necessary because black officers will be retiring, Ponder said. And the city workforce should reflect the local population, he added.