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Baltimore County Settles Discrimination Suit

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed suit against Baltimore County’s Police Department. The suit alleged that the police department’s pass/fail written exam disparately impacted black applicants, and as a result, the department hired fewer black officers. After conducting a multi-year investigation, the DOJ found that Black applicants passed the County’s exam at a “statistically significant” lower rate than white applicants. The police department’s use of the exam was not “job-related.” The DOJ explicitly stated that it did not allege that the county intentionally discriminated against Black individuals.

The terms of the settlement require the county to pay $2 million in back pay to eligible claimants. In addition, the county agreed to make 20 priority hires for Black applicants who previously took but failed the written exams. A test developer will craft a new exam to avoid a disparate impact on Black applicants. Pending the creation of this test, the parties agreed to use the National Police Officer Selection Test.

Since 2019, the police department has implemented steps to create more diversity and stopped using the written test. In the news release about the settlement, the police department stated, “Ensuring residents see themselves reflected in our ranks is a critical step towards strengthening our relationship with the communities that we are sworn to serve.”