In the ruling, the judge found that Mass Police sergeant promotional exams were discriminatory | Rare Techy


The lawsuit focused on several sergeant promotional exams held between 2005 and 2012. The plaintiffs in the case include current or former officers and police in Boston, Brockton, Lawrence, Methuen, Lowell, Springfield, Worcester, and other communities in the state. For the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

All black or Hispanic plaintiffs were either not promoted to sergeant or suffered significant delays in promotion based on their scores on tests administered by the state Human Resources Division, which include 80 multiple-choice questions culled from textbooks.

Education and experience comprise 20 percent of a candidate’s total score.

Wilkins noted that “a 1-point difference in test score can make the difference between promotion and passing.”

“This is a very big decision,” Harold Lichen, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said of Wilkins’ ruling.

The judge’s ruling, Lichten said. It shows that not only did the tests disparately disadvantage candidates of color, but state officials were aware of better assessment practices and still used the same discriminatory process.

“We’re not getting great police sergeants because we’re not getting the skills” that make great police sergeants, he said.

Shannon Liss-Riordan, another attorney representing the plaintiffs, said Friday, “After George Floyd, it is absolutely critical that police departments reflect the community they serve, including commanding officers and supervisors, in order to build trust. “

“Research has confirmed that this selection process does not hire the bravest, best and most qualified officers,” she said. “We are waiting [during the remedy process] Toward a system that allows more fairness for all who want to become a supervisor across the state… [and] A critical question is whether the next AG, whoever it may be, will continue to appeal this case or decide not to defend this discriminatory test any longer.

A spokesman for the state’s Executive Office for Administration and Finance said in a statement Friday, “The department is reviewing the decision and will determine the appropriate next steps.”

It’s not clear specifically whether current or former officials who have been thwarted in their efforts to get promoted could benefit, but Lichten says the number is “probably in the hundreds.”

The monetary damages that such officers may receive are also unclear. That issue, in addition to specifics on how to address the promotional process issues, will be considered by the judge at future remedial hearings, Lichten says. The state cannot appeal until it is heard.

Rosanna Cavallaro is Professor of Law at Suffolk University Friday said the judge’s ruling, unrelated to the case, raises questions What was the goal in mind of those who created the sergeant promotion process?

“They knew this was happening, they could have fixed it, and they didn’t, and I think that’s a pretty damning indictment,” she said.

Cavallaro said the tests represent a make-or-break tool of a person career, and there appears to be a disconnect between what the tests measure and what the public wants from its police.

“They chose to appreciate the reminder,” she said.

Christine Cole, a Boston-based policing consultant, said the judge’s ruling gives state and municipal officials an opportunity to rethink how they evaluate officers for promotion. Such tests were put in place decades ago to limit political patronage, she said, but there are limitations when it comes to assessing someone’s behavioral patterns.

The tests, she said, “shouldn’t be the method we use to select people who have very important security-related responsibilities.”

“The skills we try to assess in police supervisors are behavioral,” she said. “It’s their behavioral skills that set them apart.”

Jeffrey Lopes, president of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, said, “This case underscores the need to continue the fight to create equity in police leadership and police membership.”

“This decision creates a foundation for all of us to continue building greater portals of equity for the underserved and underrepresented,” he said in a statement.

The court filing also examines the history of a lack of police sergeants of color in some Massachusetts cities. At Worcester, for example, no colored officers were promoted to sergeant Between 1987 and 2001. Brockton had a similar stretch from about 2000 to 2012.

Ivy Scott of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Daniel McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.


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