MA Officers: Multiple-Choice Exams Block Minority Promotions


Police officers filed a federal civil rights suit against two Massachusetts cities, Lawrence and Methuen, and the state, contending that a state promotional exam discriminates against members of minority groups and has prevented their advancement within the ranks, the Boston Globe reports. In Lawrence, where three-quarters of the population is minority, only two of the 39 police supervisors are minority. Methuen, which is more than 10 percent minority, has no minority group members among its 25 supervisors.

“These examinations have, over the last 20 years, been demonstrated to have significant adverse impact on minority (black and Hispanic) test takers while not having been shown to be valid predictors of job performance,” the officers argue. “All of the defendants have been well aware of this fact, yet have taken no action to design a less discriminatory and more job-related examination procedure.” They say the multiple-choice format of the test, not the content of the questions, has blocked the rise of minorities, many of whom grew up speaking a different language. They want the state to devise a promotion system that would better reflect the skills used by a police supervisor, instead of how well they answer multiple-choice questions.


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