Opinion Section: Op-Ed
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Yes, as incomprehensible and reprehensible as the facts reveal, it has occurred: The federal government and a local government have publicly announced the appalling, racist act of proclaiming that black people in this country are inherently incapable of learning at the same level as non-black people, when the Justice Department (DOJ) on August 27, 2019 filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against Baltimore County for using a written test as part of the police application process, resulting in a larger exam failure rate for blacks than non-blacks, and the County Executive, John Olszewski, agreeing the test should not be used as part of the selection process.
The applicants were required to pass the test with a minimum score of 70%. A lower score resulted in disqualification.
The DOJ claimed within the lawsuit that the test is not relevant to policing job duties. That claim is clearly incorrect, based on the most recent exam available online, because the exam judges – among other things – the applicant’s ability to make observations, write notes about them while the scene is visible, and – relying entirely on the handwritten notes – answer exam questions about visible data within the scene.
If that is not basic police work, expected from every cop, then there is far more wrong with the DOJ and Olszewski than their racist notions that black people in this country have an inferior mental ability, preventing them from learning the material required to reach a minimum score and at the same rate and level as non-black people.
The additional parts of the exam cover topics such as reading comprehension (15%), logical ordering (20%), writing, grammar, punctuation (30%), and interpretation of data (20%). The remaining 15% is the observation/note taking.
The position that reading comprehension, writing, grammar, and punctuation is superfluous to the duties of policing does not hold water any better than a coffee filter. Has the DOJ and Olszewski already forgotten the book titled Eats, Shoots & Leaves? Have they already forgotten, or are they unaware of the $5 million Oakhurst Dairy civil suit won by their drivers because management disregarded the power of a comma, not to mention the rules of syntactic parallelism, when management misinterpreted a payroll overtime law?
Doesn’t the use of non-standard English lead to miscommunications? Wouldn’t that lead to lives lost because of lost time?
The other portions of the exam merely test the applicant’s ability to think in a logical order. Isn’t that a necessary skill, especially for those doing anything resembling detective work?
I have read the entire exams administered for years 2015 and 2016 (most recent revision available online). The written communications portion of it tests 5th or 6th grade skills—a disappointingly low bar.
Additionally, the exam eliminated those applicants with a learning disability, because they would not be able to reach the minimum score. How else would those applicants be filtered out during the selection process? Haven’t all of us seen enough videos on the news of rogue cops using African Americans for target practice? Are we now going to give a gun, badge, and immense authority to individuals with a learning disability?
It is too easy to dismiss these decisions and actions as relevant only to Baltimore County, but that is misguided. Under the supervision of Delora Kennebrew, Chief of the DOJ Civil Rights Division, their attorneys have used the same racist argument across the country to force local governments to hire less-than-most-qualified applicants as cops or firemen.
By far, the vilest sin of this lawsuit and ban-the-test decision is the resulting message being sent to African Americans, particularly young black students, that they have an inferior mental ability. What could be a more gut-wrenching, repulsive, racist message to send to one-eighth of the nation’s population and nearly one-third of Baltimore County’s population? And this is from the most powerful individual within that county’s government.
We as adults should be lifting-up the young, not spitting on them via this revolting and racist public policy.
Shame on the Department of Justice. Shame on Mr. Olszewski.