Chesapeake Will Study Police Tests After No Women or Blacks Advance

Mike Saewitz, Virginian-Pilot (Hampton Roads), October 22, 2008

Of the nearly 150 Chesapeake police officers who took tests for promotions to sergeant or lieutenant earlier this month, no women or blacks scored high enough to move forward in the promotion process, according to Chesapeake officials.

Now, Chesapeake will pay about $50,000 for a consultant to study the exam before deciding whether to throw out the tests.

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On Tuesday, human resources officials met with 60 officers who had taken the test Oct. 4. Horne said many were relieved to hear that the city had backed off its initial decision to void the test.

There were 108 officers who took the test for promotion to sergeant. The top 20 scorers were to move forward in the process. Eleven black men, nine white women and three black women took the test that day but didn’t make the list.

There were 36 candidates who took the test for lieutenant. The top 10 scorers were to move forward. Four black men, three white women and two black women took that test but didn’t make the list.

Human resources officials noticed that both lists lacked female and black candidates.

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“Our hope is that the test will be validated so we can continue the process smoothly,” said City Manager William Harrell.

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In 2007, the city settled a racial discrimination lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department, which alleged that Chesapeake police used a math test that unfairly disqualified black and Hispanic officer applicants.

Between March 2001 and January 2006, Chesapeake required officer applicants to score 70 percent or higher on the math portion of an entrance exam. Just over 57 percent of black applicants passed, while nearly 89 percent of white applicants passed, a Justice Department review found.

The police changed their entrance-exam requirements after the Justice Department review.

The Oct. 4 promotion test was a multiple-choice exam that quizzed officers about such things as department policies and procedures, Virginia code, and local ordinances, city officials said.

For the first time, those taking the lieutenant exam had an open-book portion of the test. The candidates had an hour to do it. But a proctor toured the room 30 minutes into the test and discovered that a majority of the candidates were less than halfway through the test, city documents show.

The candidates were given an additional 20 minutes to finish. Some argued that the extra 20 minutes was unfair to those officers who finished the test on time.

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