City to hire white men who sued

Monday, November 29, 1999

By Ann Belser, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The city yesterday reluctantly agreed to comply with a court order requiring it to hire nine white men who filed a discrimination lawsuit after being passed over for police positions in 1992.

City Solicitor Jacqueline Morrow said the ruling would hamper efforts to maintain diversity in the police force.

The men, all applicants with high scores on the city's written examination for police candidates, had charged that the city used a subsequent oral examination in a discriminatory fashion to weed them out.

A federal court jury agreed in June 1998, awarding back pay and damages. U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill Jr. ordered the city to hire the plaintiffs. The rulings recently were affirmed by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Morrow said the city wasn't trying to discriminate against white men with the oral examination but was trying to avoid discriminating against black people and women.

"The city was trying to do something it should do," she said of the system in which the oral examination boosted black and female applicants. She said the city wanted a police force that reflected the city's population.

"We're going to have to answer [the decision] at the recruiting level and find ways to encourage African Americans to go into law enforcement," she said. "There's a whole lot of distrust in segregated black communities about policing. ... Those are really difficult issues to deal with."

The lawsuit followed a 16-year period in which Pittsburgh police were under a court-ordered quota hiring system. From 1975 to 1991, the bureau was required to hire equal numbers of white males, white females, black males and black females.

The system was dissolved after a legal challenge by four white male applicants who said the need for quotas had diminished.

The nine white men who sued the city were in one of the first pools of applicants following the end of the quota system. All said they had scored higher on the written exam than female and minority applicants who were offered police jobs.

The city yesterday agreed to a consent order calling for it to offer jobs to the nine plaintiffs if they pass physical and psychological exams. The city also will owe them $900,000 in back pay and related damages.

"I'm glad it's finally done," said Samuel J. Cordes, attorney for the nine applicants since they filed suit in 1993.

Under yesterday's agreement, the city will pay eight of the plaintiffs about $438,000 in back pay and interest. The ninth, Mark Joyce of Frederick, Md., who is in the uniformed division of the U.S. Secret Service, will not receive back pay because his salary is more than he would have made as a police officer.

The city also will pay legal fees of $292,262.

Cordes said other payments still being worked out would bring the city's total to $900,000.

The agreement also calls for the city to give the men seniority dating to March 8, 1993, the date they would have started if they had been offered jobs in 1992.

Cordes said he expected the first group to enter the police academy in January. Others, he said, may join later because they must move back to the city if they accept jobs.

Michael Hopp, a police officer in Wilkinsburg, said last month that he wanted to join the city department. He will get $6,879 in back pay and interest. Two other plaintiffs also are on the Wilkinsburg force, Donald Hamlin, who will get $108,011 in back pay and interest, and Charles Knox, who will get $32,763.

Other plaintiffs and their awards were:

John Shamlin, a police officer at the University of Pittsburgh, who will receive $31,668; Lawrence Skinger, who works at Mercy Providence Hospital, $81,337; Harry Lutton, a part-time officer for Brentwood who also works for the state attorney general's office, $86,944; Brian Dayton, a member of the Baltimore Police Department, $58,035; and Joe Dinnien, who works in sales and marketing for Prudential Insurance but has experience as a police officer in Cheltenham, Montgomery County, and Florida, $32,368.