Boston May Scrap Cop Exam Said To Favor Whites


After a federal court ruling overturning Boston’s 30-year-old quota system, Police Commissioner Kathleen O’Toole is eyeing radical changes in police hiring that may include eliminating the civil service exam or making it pass-fail, the Boston Globe says. O’Toole told the Globe she wants to shift from the city’s heavy reliance on the test, which favors white applicants, to focus on more subjective factors, such as background, training, and foreign language skills that would allow the city to hire minority police officers. “I’m not enamored of the current system,” she said. “I’m not convinced that test scores are the best indicator.” She added: “Whatever we end up with has to be fair and attract the best candidates. We can’t go to a purely political process.”

O’Toole is considering two other changes: a revision in the law that gives veterans preference in hiring, which critics say often favors whites, and heavier use of the police cadet program, once a bastion of whites, to attract and train minority applicants. The proposals, some of which would require legislative approval, are the first to surface as Boston contemplates an era without the 1974 federal consent decrees ordering the city’s police and fire departments to hire more members of minority groups. In September, 41 percent of Boston’s 1,344 patrolmen were minority members; O’Toole said she wants to avoid backsliding.


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