A proposed class action lawsuit alleges Nassau County, New York and its police department have discriminatorily eliminated qualified non-white applicants for employment as police officers.
The 41-page complaint was filed by a 36-year-old Black active-duty New York City police officer and Nassau County native who, despite passing the written exam, performing well on the physical agility tests, and his current line of work, nevertheless “could not overcome the pervasive discrimination” within the Long Island county’s police officer hiring process when he applied for a job for which he was “plainly qualified” in 2017.
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The lawsuit says that despite the plaintiff’s “impressive background,” Nassau County, its Civil Service Commission and the Nassau County Police Department claimed that he was unfit for the job because his motor vehicle record, which, according to the suit, “consisted of nothing more than minor accidents and timely paid, decade-old traffic tickets for minor non-moving violations,” amounted to “disrespect for the process of law.”
The filing argues that the reason the plaintiff was denied the Nassau County police officer job was “obviously pretext” given that, around the same time the plaintiff was disqualified from the position, he was offered a job as an NYPD officer. Also around that time, the Nassau County Police Department hired at least two white officers with “far more troubling records” than the plaintiff’s “distant” infractions, according to the case.
Per the suit, the plaintiff is not alone, as hiring data obtained from the county shows that non-white job applicants have been turned down at exceedingly disproportionate rates.
“Officer Myers is not an isolated example. Hiring data obtained from Defendants through [New York Freedom of Information Law] requests shows that non-white applicants have been disqualified from the hiring process at an alarming rate that significantly exceeds the rejection rate for white applicants. This problem is spread pervasively throughout the process and routinely transforms applicant pools that initially mirror the County’s diverse demographics into recruit classes that are unjustifiably and disproportionately white.”
The end result, the lawsuit says, is that for the most recent hiring cycle that concluded in 2019, Nassau County hired nearly seven percent of white applicants, but only 3.7 percent of Hispanic applicants, and just 1.8 percent of Black applicants.
The case places blame for these “discriminatory hiring figures” in large part on a “highly subjective, post-written examination screening process” that allegedly affords Nassau County the ability to “discriminatorily weed out otherwise qualified non-white applicants.”
“The numbers speak for themselves: Defendants hired white applicants who began the post-exam process 1.61 times more often than similar Hispanic applicants, and a staggering 2.84 times more often than similar Black applicants. … [T]his is a shocking and statistically significant difference that cannot be attributed to non-discriminatory factors.”
The suit goes on to charge that “[n]one of this is news” to the defendants given that more than 40 years ago they were the subject of an action by the U.S. Department of Justice to “enjoin the use of discriminatory hiring practices.” According to the lawsuit, the DOJ’s complaint focused largely on the county’s written examination and alleged that through the exam and other means, Nassau County had “pursued and continue[s] to pursue policies and practices that discriminate against [B]lacks, Spanish-surnamed individuals, and women with respect to employment opportunities within the police department.”
What followed the DOJ action was the issuance of a consent decree that the lawsuit says “should have remedied the historical pattern of discrimination in Defendants’ hiring of police officers,” as it mandated that the county, civil service commission and police department seek in good faith the employment of persons of color and women in all sworn ranks and non-sworn positions. Further, the consent decree imposed upon Nassau County a strict reporting regimen requiring it to collect detailed demographic data for anyone hired or disqualified for the position of police officer in the county, the suit adds.
The lawsuit says that despite having more than 40 years to “achieve an integrated police force,” the defendants have “failed to diversify the ranks of Nassau County police officers.”
“In fact, the numbers show that Defendants continue to implement their discriminatory tactics in the post-exam process, allowing these more subjective steps to weed out qualified non-white applicants who manage to pass the difficult written exam,” the case states.
Despite being aware of the problem, Nassau County and its civil service commission and police department have not taken any meaningful steps to address the alleged discrimination, according to the suit. To the contrary, the tone from “the very top of the NCPD” is “one that accepts and promotes discrimination,” the case says.
“Rather than treating Defendants’ legal obligation to promote diversity as an important priority, current NCPD Commissioner Patrick Ryder has referred to the consent decree as a ‘farce’ and described it as a ‘game that gets played in the numbers,’” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit looks to cover all non-white applicants who sought to become Nassau County police officers and were disqualified for consideration by the defendants during the post-exam process.
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