Are there racist law en­force­ment exam ques­tions?

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Opinion -

The U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice has re­cently sued the Bal­ti­more County govern­ment al­leg­ing that its writ­ten test for po­lice of­fi­cer re­cruits was un­fairly bi­ased against black ap­pli­cants. It turns out that black ap­pli­cants failed the writ­ten test at a rate much greater than white ap­pli­cants.

That re­sults in fewer blacks be­ing trained and hired as po­lice of­fi­cers. John A. Ol­szewski Jr., Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive said: “A law en­force­ment agency should look like the com­mu­nity it serves. As I have said re­peat­edly since tak­ing of­fice, I am com­mit­ted to in­creas­ing di­ver­sity in the county’s Po­lice Depart­ment.”

Bal­ti­more City uses Mu­nic­i­pal Po­lice Se­lec­tion Test. You can ex­am­ine some sam­ple ques­tions at its web­site. I’d like to know which of the ques­tions are either un­re­lated to po­lice work or racist. Many ju­ris­dic­tions use The Na­tional Po­lice Of­fi­cer Se­lec­tion Test. You can ex­am­ine some of the sam­ple ques­tions at its web­site. Again, I’d like to know which of the ques­tions are un­re­lated to po­lice work or are racially bi­ased ques­tions. In ad­di­tion, it has been found that MPST and POST are suc­cess­ful pre­dic­tors of law en­force­ment train­ing suc­cess and job per­for­mance.

Black per­for­mance on po­lice ex­ams is sim­ply the tip of the ice­berg of a truly tragic cru­elty. That cru­elty stands front and cen­ter when one ex­am­ines the ed­u­ca­tion that most blacks in Bal­ti­more re­ceive. Sev­eral years ago, Project Bal­ti­more be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Bal­ti­more’s school sys­tem. What they found was an ut­ter dis­grace. In 19 of Bal­ti­more’s high schools, out of 3,804 stu­dents, only 14 of them, or less than 1%, were pro­fi­cient in math. In 13 of Bal­ti­more’s 39 high schools, not a sin­gle stu­dent scored pro­fi­cient in math. In five Bal­ti­more City high schools, not a sin­gle stu­dent scored pro­fi­cient in math or read­ing. De­spite these aca­demic de­fi­cien­cies, about 70% of the stu­dents grad­u­ate and are con­ferred a high school di­ploma. A high school di­ploma at­tests that the holder can read, write and com­pute at a 12thgrade level. Ob­vi­ously, the diplo­mas con­ferred on stu­dents who have not mas­tered read­ing, writ­ing and com­put­ing are fraud­u­lent.

When a per­son who can­not read, write and com­pute very well takes a writ­ten em­ploy­ment exam, in­clud­ing that to be­come a po­lice of­fi­cer, he is go­ing to en­counter dif­fi­cul­ties. His dif­fi­cul­ties are not caused by any racially dis­crim­i­na­tory as­pect of the test. His dif­fi­cul­ties are a re­sult of not hav­ing ac­quired what he should have ac­quired by the time he fin­ished high school. But that is not how such a per­son sees it.

He sees that he has a high school di­ploma just as a white ap­pli­cant has a high school di­ploma. To him, any dif­fer­ence in treat­ment and out­comes must be the re­sult of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion. Thus, the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice sued, claim­ing that the writ­ten test for po­lice of­fi­cer re­cruits was un­fairly bi­ased against black ap­pli­cants.

The con­clu­sion that Bal­ti­more County’s writ­ten test for po­lice of­fi­cer re­cruits was un­fairly bi­ased against black ap­pli­cants is tragic. It al­lows Bal­ti­more pub­lic schools to con­tinue to pro­duce fraud­u­lent ed­u­ca­tion. You say: “Hold it, Wil­liams! You can’t blame ev­ery­thing on schools.”

You’re right. One can­not blame schools and teach­ers for stu­dents who are hos­tile to the ed­u­ca­tion process. One can­not blame schools and teach­ers for a rot­ten home en­vi­ron­ment or derelict par­ents. But there is one thing en­tirely within the con­trol of ed­u­ca­tors. That’s their power to is­sue diplo­mas. When they con­fer high school diplo­mas on young­sters who can­not read, write and com­pute at or near a 12th-grade level, they are en­gag­ing in fraud­u­lent con­duct.

Dr. Thomas Sow­ell’s re­search in “Ed­u­ca­tion: As­sump­tions Ver­sus His­tory” doc­u­ments aca­demic ex­cel­lence at Bal­ti­more’s Fred­er­ick Dou­glass High School and oth­ers. This aca­demic ex­cel­lence oc­curred dur­ing an era when blacks were much poorer and faced gross racial dis­crim­i­na­tion. It’s worth­while read­ing for black peo­ple to learn the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of other blacks fac­ing so many chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances. I’m won­der­ing when the black com­mu­nity will de­mand an end to an ed­u­ca­tional en­vi­ron­ment that con­demns so many young­sters to medi­ocrity.

Wal­ter E. Wil­liams is a pro­fes­sor of eco­nomics at Ge­orge Ma­son Uni­ver­sity.

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