Oakland, Ca., Mayor Libby Schaaf ordered an immediate end Sunday to a police department policy that forced job applicants to disclose information about whether they had been sexually assaulted, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The mayor’s order came in response to a Chronicle story Sunday revealing the practice, which legal experts said was highly unusual, discriminatory and possibly illegal. “Today I ordered the immediate removal of a waiver where OPD applicants authorize the release of confidential records, including those that would disclose whether they are victims of sexual assault,” Schaaf said, adding that she ordered “a top-to-bottom review of the department’s recruitment and hiring process to ensure no other barriers discourage the hiring of women or minority applicants.”
Asking job applicants to disclose whether they have ever been sexually assaulted is at best problematic. Catherine Sanz of Women in Federal Law Enforcement Inc., said questions about a woman’s ties to home and her children have long been considered inappropriate, so one would think sexual assault would also be out of bounds. “I would look at it as an artificial barrier to eliminate candidates and particularly minority candidates, which is one of the biggest problems law enforcement has,” said Sanz. Women make up only 12 percent of the law enforcement workforce. “We know gender bias has a big impact on the policies and procedures that impact the recruitment, hiring, training and promotion of women in the profession.” The Chronicle checked with police departments in the 10 most populous cities in California and could not find any that ask candidates to disclose information about prior sexual assaults. Oakland police officials said the requests were being made because they wanted to review all police reports in which applicants appeared. They insisted the candidates were not denied positions for being victims.