Amended lawsuit claims Pittsburgh police favor whites in hiring

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Five former candidates for police officer positions with the city of Pittsburgh filed an amended complaint late Monday alleging that the Bureau of Police has systematically favored whites over minorities in its hiring practices.

The amended complaint provides more detail than the original lawsuit, filed last year by attorneys at Stember, Feinstein, Doyle, Payne & Kravec and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Since 2001, the city has hired 440 officers, of which 17 -- less than 4 percent -- were African-American, according to the complaint.

The ratio has only gotten worse since 2007, during which time the bureau has hired 260 recruits, of whom 3 percent were African-American, according to the complaint.

The available pool of qualified protective services candidates in the city, it claims, includes 22 percent African-American males and 10 percent African-American females.

The complaint attributed the minority hiring rate to a "longstanding pattern an practice of racial discrimination against African Americans in the screening and hiring of applicants for entry-level police officer positions."

Applicants start off by taking the Law Enforcement Aptitude Battery test, which 13.8 percent of minorities fail, versus 2.8 percent of whites, according to the complaint.

The city then puts applicants through an oral examination by veteran officers, according to the complaint, and "has allowed supervisors to obtain a copy of the list of candidates and look for candidates who were related to or friends of police officers" prior to that interview.

The city then does a background check and polygraph test on top candidates. Sometimes examiners ask questions that aren't on the application, according to the complaint, which characterizes this as improper.

Final decisions made by a "committee of top-ranked police officials, commonly known as the 'Chief's Roundtable,'" the complaint continued, consisting of around a dozen top officials.

The plaintiffs, according to the complaint, believe that members "know and/or are told who is related to a police officer or preferred by a police officer."

The complaint suggests that the city could hire an outside company to do the examinations, could preserve the confidentiality of candidate names, and should videotape the interviews.

Pittsburgh city solicitor Dan Regan could not be immediately reached for comment.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.


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