New Jersey’s civil service test for police officers seeking a promotion to sergeant discriminates against African-American and Hispanic candidates, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday.
Even African-Americans and Hispanics who pass the multiple-choice test are less likely to receive promotions because their scores are lower, according to the 10-page lawsuit filed against the state and the Civil Service Commission. The suit seeks to block the state from using the test.
At least 120 municial and county police departments in New Jersey have used the discriminatory system from 2000 to 2008, according to Department of Justice spokesman Alejandro Miyar.
Eighteen of the state’s 20 largest cities and townships, including Newark, use the same test.
The Department of Justice is arguing the state has violated Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination, because it hasn’t proved that the test, which some departments require for promotions to sergeant, is an essential tool for determing fitness for the job.
Between 2000 and 2008, 89 percent of the white candidates who took the test passed it, compared to 73 percent of African-American candidates and 77 percent of Hispanic candidates, the lawsuit says.
“For whatever reason, the test as it currently exists has a disparate impact,” Miyar said. “We don’t have a problem with the use of a written test, but if the state wishes to do so it must not have a disparate impact.”