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Pittsburgh police accused of discriminatory hiring

We wrote several posts earlier this month about discrimination and harassment issues in the Philadelphia police department. Now there are allegations being made of racial discrimination in the police department here in Pittsburgh.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint in federal court late last week alleging that the Pittsburgh Police Bureau engages in hiring practices that discriminate against African American applicants.

In addition to personal accounts from two lead plaintiffs in this case, the ACLU also cites that African Americans make up only 16 percent of the police force in the city, despite the fact that Pittsburgh's overall population is 25 percent African American. Over 83 percent of the police force is white, while only 68 percent of city residents are white.

In order to be considered for a job as a police officer, applicants must pass written and oral tests, pass a background check, and a physical fitness test. After that all applications are passed to a group of chiefs, who circulate the files that include photos of all the applicants and then choose who will enter the next training class.

Practices can be discriminatory on their face which means that there is clear indication that the policy, as written, will discriminate against a certain group. Hiring practices can also be discriminatory as applied, which means it has a discriminatory result. This lawsuit argues that the hiring practices of the policy department in Pittsburgh are discriminatory as applied through the inclusion of subjective factors in the final hiring decision. There are several subjective elements that result in discriminatory hiring, including favoring candidates with connections in the department or family who has previously served.

The lawsuit says that nepotism and cronyism are to blame for the low proportion of African American officers on the force.

Our firm handles employment discrimination cases in Pittsburgh and around the state. More information about rights for employees in Pennsylvania is available on our website.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "ACLU Lawsuit accuses Pittsburgh police of discrimination in hiring," Sadie Gurman, August 23, 2012.

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