DOJ Files Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Baltimore County Police

By Staff Reporter
Posted on 08/27/19 | News Source: WBAL TV


The U.S. Department of Justice filed a race discrimination lawsuit against one of Maryland's largest police departments.

The DOJ is claiming the Baltimore County Police Department discriminated against black applicants for years.

The federal lawsuit filed by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division blames a written exam that it said led to hiring fewer African-Americans as entry-level police officers and cadets, alleging the pass/fail exams were a discriminatory screening device. 

The claim stems from a written exam the department used to select applicants. 

According to the DOJ, written exams used by the Baltimore County Police Department to screen and select applicants led to the county hiring: "Fewer African American applicants as BCPD entry-level police officers and police cadets since January 1, 2013 than it would have had it used a nondiscriminatory screening device."

The department has used at least three different versions of the exam -- one from 2009-2013, another in 2014 and a third from 2015 and after 2016.

In all those cases the DOJ found that: "African-American applicants passed the exam at a lower rate than white applicants passed the exam. This difference between the pass rates of white and African American applicants on the exam is statistically significant."

In a statement, the Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the justice department's Civil Rights Division said: "Employers must be mindful that an employment selection device, like a test, must be shown to be job-related if it disproportionately excludes members of one of title seven's protected groups."

Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. released a statement, saying: "A law enforcement agency should look like the community it serves. As I have said repeatedly since taking office, I am committed to increasing diversity in the county's Police Department. Chief (Melissa) Hyatt shares this commitment, and we have already taken concrete steps forward. In the interest of moving forward and while denying any liability for actions by prior administrations, we have stopped using the test that the Justice Department believes has an adverse impact on African-American applicants. We have created two diversity-focused positions in county government -- one for the county at large and one specifically for the Police Department. We will continue to work with Chief Hyatt, department leadership, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Blue Guardians and other organizations that represent our officers, in order to ensure that our Police Department is diverse, vibrant and reflects the diversity of Baltimore County's communities. We are willing to negotiate with the Department of Justice to resolve this matter in a way that best serves the Baltimore County Police Department and our mission of advancing public safety for all of Baltimore County."

The DOJ wants a judge to order the county to adopt non-discriminatory measures to correct the current effects of past policies and practices, including using selection procedures that comply with title seven and provide individual remedies to applicants who suffered loss as a result of the alleged discrimination.

The county executive said his administration created two new diversity-focused positions, one is specifically for the Police Department.