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JudicialWatch files suit against DOJ over minority testing standards

JudicialWatch claims that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) pressured Ohio's Dayton Police Department to lower testing standards after not enough African Americans passed the city's written examination. We covered this story back in March.

In addition to blasting this act, JudicialWatch filed a lawsuit against the DOJ in an effort to retrieve even more records that may shed light on this particular case. The original files provide some intriguing details:

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch include the City of Dayton’s standards and test materials for police and firefighter candidates produced by Fire & Police Selection, Inc., a company with a 15-year track record of designing and validating tests used to recruit police officers and firefighters. The documents also include correspondence between the City of Dayton and the DOJ as DOJ officials conducted their analysis of the Dayton recruitment and testing program. (A “Consent Decree” signed by both parties to resolve a discrimination lawsuit filed by the DOJ against the City of Dayton.)

The City of Dayton sent its written exam and testing plan to the DOJ before the test was administered, as requested, and took special steps to focus on reaching out to minority candidates (underrepresented groups). At first, the DOJ had no negative comments on the plans, but once the scores came in, the department was singing a different tune. According to JudicialWatch:

In a letter dated February 7, 2011, DOJ Senior Attorney Barbara Thawley informed the City of Dayton that the DOJ rejected the written portion of the Dayton examination: “The United States has determined that the City’s proposed use of the written examination…violates…the Civil Rights Act of 1964…because it has a statistically significant disparate impact upon African American candidates…” The letter closed by threatening court action. A subsequent letter on February 17, 2011, suggests the written exam be used as a “pass/fail” screening device, which the DOJ described as a “compromise.”

JudicialWatch's president Tim Fitton is less than pleased with the DOJ's response, claiming that the government is not only wrong on the matter, but is also putting the public's safety at risk by hiring "less qualified" candidates:

“These documents show the City of Dayton bent over backwards to accommodate the Justice Department’s ridiculous demands. But the Justice Department did not care a whit about the testing process; they cared only about the results and race quotas. Now the Justice Department has attempted to cut standards and game the system to give critical first responder jobs to less qualified candidates. This puts the public safety at risk. And, as is typical, this Justice Department can’t be bothered to comply with basic FOIA law and tell the American people exactly what it is up to.”

This case is sure to get interesting, especially considering the federal government's invocation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It seems the DOJ's threat to sue the Dayton has been matched by JudicialWatch's official filing of a lawsuit against the nation's most powerful law enforcement agency.

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