ACLU Lawsuit: Pittsburgh Police Favored Whites Over African-American Applicants

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    The American Civil Liberties Union filed an amended lawsuit against the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police along with five persons who had previously applied to work for the police force.

    The April 15 lawsuit claims the bureau’s hiring practices favor Whites over African-American candidates and the small number of monitories working on the force is a reflection of those practices.

    Additionally, the lawsuit alleges the screening and hiring process for entry-level police officer positions endured an ongoing pattern and routine of racial discrimination.

    The complaint alleges that the city has hired on 17 Black officers out of the 440 total –since 2001— that represents less than 4 percent of new hires. African Americans account for less than 16 percent of the total police force in spite of the fact they total 26 to 29 percent of the city’s population.

    “We’ve added three more plaintiffs and we’ve updated hiring data,” said Vic Walczak, legal director of ACLU of Pennsylvania. “So there’s been two classes since we filed the lawsuit and they are marginally better but still a very long way from a better system.”

    According to the lawsuit, discrimination occurs at every level of the hiring process and throughout the phases to come. The lawsuit alleges selected applicants are given special treatment on the account of their existing relationships with current officers. Also, when applicants take the Law Enforcement Aptitude Battery Test, which 13.8 percent of Blacks fail and only 2.8 percent of Whites fail.

    “We haven’t pointed a finger and said here’s a person in a white hood, but they’re clearly playing games,” Walczak said.

    According to the lawsuit, to end the discrimination the city could hire an outside company to conduct oral exams and videotape interviews, and to avoid bias all candidates should be kept anonymous.

    The original lawsuit from the ACLU was filed in August.
    Walczak told the Pittsburgh Courier the organization isn’t even at the discovery stage yet.

    “There’s a saying, the wheels of justice grind slowly,” he said.

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