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Thursday, March 16, 2006

DOJ: Virginia Police Math Test Discriminates

It has happened again, but it is not totally unexpected. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has accused the Chesapeake Police Department of discrimination against Blacks and Hispanics on the basis of math.

Earlier we had reported that the Virginia Beach Police were accused of the same, and they are currently in negotiations with the DOJ to remedy the situation.

What is at the crux of the discrimination charge is that Blacks and Hispanics have not done as well as Whites on a math test. The math test is used in many area police departments so we expect more charges from the DOJ to happen. Here is the test in question.

In a sense, I consider this a tragic consequence. Relating math performance to discrimination is almost beyond the pale. For one, the ability to use simple math skills is a necessity not only to police officers, but to almost every occupation in the United States. The test is a standard test that involves simple concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It does not require higher math skills than that. And we should expect those abilities in our Police officers.

To accept that poor performance by Blacks and Hispanics on a simple math test is discrimination, is ultimately an insult to those of any race. I do not accept that Blacks or Hispanics perform worse than Whites because of a lack of ability. We need to know why and what has gone wrong in our school system.

Rather than excluding the math test for the requirement for becoming a Police Officer, another tack would be to provide pre-employment training before the test is administered. The Post Office offers similar courses to help people get ready for their employment tests.

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