Sean Philip Cotter, Boston Herald, November 10, 2022
The state has canceled the upcoming fire civil-service promotional exam and “will not score” the recent statewide exam for police in light of a recent Boston-based court case.
The court case in question is Tatum et al v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a suit from several Black or Hispanic police officers filed back in 2009 as they claimed that the civil-service sergeants’ promotional exam disadvantaged minority test takers, leading to lower scores and therefore delayed or missed promotions through the centralized and highly regimented process used by many police and fire departments.
A Suffolk Superior judge heard the matter in a bench trial this summer — and ruled on it two weeks ago, when Judge Douglas Wilkins issued a blistering finding against the state Human Resources Division.
“The evidence is very clear. It defeats any justification for HRD’s heavy reliance upon biased exams to identify the best candidates for promotion to sergeant,” the judge wrote. “Moreover, HRD knew of clearly superior assessment methods, but continued to use the same, unnecessarily discriminatory format anyway. The massive amount of evidence proving the known and unjustified disparate impact of HRD’s format leaves no doubt in this court’s mind that the Commonwealth has interfered with the plaintiffs’ rights to consideration for promotion to police sergeant without bias due to race or national origin.”
Rich MacKinnon of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts statewide union said his organization has brought on an attorney to file an emergency order to “investigate this matter” — specifically why the police case meant that firefighter exams have to stop.
“It’s going to cause issues in public safety,” he said of the lack of promotions.