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Police and Law Enforcement Home  >  Editorials    >    Intellectual Laziness Brought to you By the US Department of Justice


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Intellectual Laziness Brought to you By the U.S. Department of Justice
Police and Law Enforcement News
Friday, February 10
, 2010 5:26 p.m.

Minority test takers score lower on the New Jersey Department of Personnel Sergeant's exam, so the only fathomable explanation is that the exam is discriminatory.  This is the position of our United States Department of Justice which filed a lawsuit last month making this assertion.


In the suit, they want the current exam system thrown out; they want officers who were "harmed" by the exam promoted; and they want back pay and retroactive seniority.

The suit came complete with a press release warning all who dare not meet their standards.

“This complaint should send a clear message to all public employers that employment practices with unlawful discriminatory impact on account of race or national origin will not be tolerated,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will take all necessary action to ensure that such discriminatory practices are eliminated and that the victims of such practices are made whole.”

Perhaps we are not as enlightened as those who filed this action, but shouldn't the determination as to whether the exam is discriminatory be made by judging the exam itself as opposed to the scores.

For those not familiar with the NJDOP sergeant's exam, it is usually held every three years in the fall and consists of anywhere from sixty to one hundred questions.  An announcement for the exam comes out several months prior and includes a list of books from which the questions will be taken.  The areas to be tested are traffic law, criminal law, case law, New Jersey Attorney General Guidelines, management and supervision, and other such relevant areas. 

So the obvious question is, if the Department of Justice feels that an exam about subject matter commonly used by New Jersey police sergeants is not appropriate for screening prospective New Jersey police sergeants, what exactly would they suggest?  

There are reasons for scoring disparity that have nothing to do with this exam. 

College graduates have an advantage as most have the organizational skills and academic discipline needed to prepare for an exam covering such a vast amount of information.  Historically, there have been and still are large differences between the races in obtaining college degrees. 

Then, there is the issue of recruiting.  In an effort to expand diversity many agencies have conducted aggressive recruiting campaigns in neighborhoods and cities known for having challenged school systems.  It's logical that officers from these areas would have a more difficult time with the exam.

How about native language, family income, early family life, one vs. two-parent households, and cultural environments?  These all play a role, and they have nothing to do with the test.

And what about the Pandora's box opened by this lawsuit?  There have been studies showing that Asian students score better on standardized testing that all other races.  If this trend carried over to the promotional exam, do whites have cause for action?  Where does it end?

The current testing system is not perfect.  Every department has that highly skilled street cop with great job knowledge and natural leadership instincts who just has a hard time with a written test.  But at least prospective sergeants are tested on material relevant to the position.  More importantly, the questions mostly come from a book list provided well in advance of the exam.   We can't ask for much more.

As of now, the exam has been basically frozen.  The results from the most recent test given last fall have not been released and are said to be on hold until the legal situation is settled.  That could be years.


The affects of this nonsensical lawsuit will be massive.  It will undoubtedly cause huge problems within departments around the state.  The patience of the thousands of officers who put their lives on hold and spent a small fortune preparing for the test will slowly erode, and counter actions will likely follow.

The Department of Justice could have gone many ways here but chose the easiest route: the discrimination card.  Maybe it will garnish the most headlines, but it certainly will not do anything to improve screening for police sergeants.  In the end, promoting the most knowledgeable, most qualified, and most capable person for the job has to be the only priority.  We can't afford to be promoting or skipping anybody based on race, gender, religion, or status.  We're talking about the future leadership of law enforcement. 

No one wants an exam that discriminates against any group, and there doesn't appear to be any evidence that this is the case here.  It's unfortunate that the Department of Justice is so quick to label an exam discriminatory from a single statistic without exploring further possibilities.  It's unfortunate, and it's lazy.

And shame on you Civil Service Commission (formerly New Jersey Department of Personnel) for acquiescing to this garbage.   Issue the test results from the most recent exam, and allow departments to continue on course. 

This grandstanding by the Department of Justice needs to be fought.  Hopefully, New Jersey law enforcement interest groups and unions are preparing for battle.

What do you think?  Use the scroll box below to leave your comment.



Share your Thoughts on This Editorial

While all opinions will be considered, we will not post any messages that are inflammatory, that bash any ethnic group, or that are just beyond reason.  Letters will be reviewed and posted each day. reserves the right to alter, shorten, or decline any submission. 


Your Comments

This is very typical of the Obama administration's Justice Department. The US Constitution is being turned on its' head.  Obama does not care about merit or hard work or intelligence.  Obama wants equality across the board irrespective of deservedness or worthiness.  In other words, if you are a minority, Obama will get you that promotion despite the fact that you may not have studied one day for the test and he will use the DOJ and alleged "discriminatory practices" to undermine those who put the time in to study hard and get promoted.  Its a damned shame.  Hey, I have an idea.  While we are at it...let's tell all the college kids who are busting their asses for that A+ grade in school that they must accept a B so that we can give the dumb ass lazy jack ass with a D a B as well ...this way everybody is equal.  Hey, spread the wealth right? Doesn't matter how hard you work right?  The idiot Obama fans are riding the coattails of those of us who earn our keep.  Good luck folks and stay safe.  This country is going down fast!

To the person who commented that this lawsuit represents reverse discrimination; let me advise you that there is no such entity as reverse discrimination. Webster did not assign race to the definition in his dictionary. DISCRIMINATION IS DISCRIMINATION. This lawsuit will help cloud the real discriminatory issues that may exist in any department.

As I have read in many responding posts, I find it an insult to suggest a minority member can NOT score high enough on a test to receive a promotion. As a minority male, I wish my agency had a D.O.P. promotional test, just not the same wretched filth it called a test several years ago. 

I am a Hispanic female.  I have taken the same promotional exam as my peers, studied the same material, and was promoted at each rank.  I am currently #1 on the captain's list, and if not for the current financial crisis, would already be promoted.  To say that the test is discriminatory against minorities is to say that we are not capable of doing the same work as our peers.  I resent the notion.  I am equally capable and do not want special or differential treatment.  I will take the same test as everyone else, thank you very much. 

That lawsuit is an insult to my intelligence. As an 8 year veteran Hispanic officer in the state of New Jersey, I have watched many minority officers work hard to accomplish their goals and climb up the chain of command. Those officers spent their money and valuable time to achieve their goals. I never heard one of them complain about any of the tests they took. It’s an insult to me and those before me. For those complaining and filling lawsuits, I have three words “mind over matter” if it’s not in your mind to do it, it doesn’t  matter” and if it doesn’t matter enough to put time and effort, quit complaining and get another job.


The test should include several phases. The first being the written portion produced by the DOP. The second should be a DOP approved test that covers your knowledge of your community, local ordinances and department rules & regulations. The third part could be an oral interview and/or personnel file review. Departments could use DOP or Chiefs of Police to conduct the oral and personnel file review.

So does that mean they have to use the list that just expired? I sure the guys on the old list are hoping for that to happen.

It is an awful shame the race card was thrown out.  Who ever made the complaint is an absolute fool!  I guess, reading, writing and basic understanding do not apply in our lives as police officers.  Give me break!   

Now, we have to wait for this frivolous complaint to come to head, before we get our test results back!!!  What a waste and abuse of legal paper!  Shame on you DOJ!  

Signed:  A Hispanic Police Officer who can read, write and has basic understanding.  Oh yeah, and who received hugs from mommy and daddy as a kid.  :-)

Paid a lot of good money for a prep course and studied real hard.. Even left the hospital after my son was born to attend class.  Disappointing and discouraging.

I'm White and not very bright, but I worked hard and tried my best. Blacks and Hispanics have been beating me in school my whole life, in sports as well based on just natural talent. I have always worked twice as hard as everyone else to get where I am. This is going to set back race relations in most police departments back 25 years, good job CSC and the DOJ. I guess its the traffic detail for me for the next 10 years.

What a joke!!! I work in a department with predominately white male officers. 33% of our Captains are Hispanic. 25% of the Lieutenants are minority. 60% of our ranking officers are African-American. We are a Civil Service Department. The questions on the test are the same for everyone!!!!!!! The test discriminates against those who do not want to study!!!!

I do not agree that college graduates have an edge. The people that come out on top in my opinion are the one's who put the time in and study. Elizabeth is arguably the most competitive municipality in Elizabeth. Last cycle we participated in was fall of 2007 and Elizabeth had the highest state wide score for Captain, Lieutenant and Sergeant.  I have scored 1 for sergeant, 3 for lieutenant and 2 for captain and I have a GED and 60 college credits, no degree. The answer to doing well is study, study and study. Each time I gave up 6 months of my life and studied at least 30-40 hours a week.  There is no secret to doing well hard work and dedication.

This lawsuit is based on the flawed concept of disparate impact, or "unintentional discrimination."  Basically, any test or other selection procedure that results in a statistical imbalance can be labeled as discriminatory.

Even more obnoxious is the so-called guideline that four Federal enforcement agencies use to determine if such an impact is present. Known as the 80 percent rule, the government believes that if the passing rates of the lowest groups are less than 80 percent of the passing rate for the highest group, they will "generally" find evidence of an adverse impact.

In this matter, Hispanics passed at a rate of 87% compared to whites; blacks passed at a rate of 82%. Neither fall below the standard that the government who filed this suit utilizes. This lawsuit is frivolous and will only erect barriers between personnel. It must be challenged.

I don't think the Unions can do much on this but those who have taken the test and passed and now face a delay or no promotion at all should file a class action law suit on the DOJ.

Sounds like pure reverse discrimination!  Where and when will it stop!  America loses when the best person for the job doesn't get it because of the color of their skin! Spineless politics!!

In my years as a police officer, I've taken this test three times.  I did obtain the referenced material and read some of it.  My placement on two of the tests I was happy with.  The last test, I'm still waiting on the results.  Regardless of the results, the key words for me are that I didn't really read ALL of the required material and this last test, if you didn't read the common sense book, then you had problems.  I don't blame anyone else, BUT myself for my test results.  I knew of the test materials, bought them, and just winged the test.

Who I really feel sorry for are those poor bro's that took the Holtz or Bernstein courses for the latest test and now its held up.  That really blows considering the price tag attached to it.

Good luck to all.  BTW, I am a minority, Puerto Rican to be exact.

This lawsuit is a slap in the face to everyone of my minority brothers and sisters who take a promotional, don't pass it and say to themselves, I've got to do better next time. If the person who filed this is a law enforcement officer, they need to find another job. They're not part of my family.

I imagine this also freeze the Lt. test since its the same. Maybe instead of the race card the DOJ should hold departments to training standards. From what I see very few get what they need. Now with budget cuts I'll be lucky to get an in-service class.

As a minority police officer, I am embarrassed by this lawsuit. I do not want a dumbed down test just because I am Hispanic. If you cant pass a standard job related exam then that's your own fault. All this lawsuit does is give the rest of us minorities a bad name. Thank you morons!

The 2002 NJDOP Sergeant's test used as one of the listed textbooks titled "Multicultural Law Enforcement" (by Shusta, et al).  This book broke down several of the larger "minority" subgroups (African American, Asian American, Latino American, Native American, and Muslim American). The text explained the cultural differences of each group in a way to better assist law enforcement officers in dealing with, having an understanding of, and preventing actions that could be found offensive by a member of that particular group.

So, any minority that took that particular year's test, would have had a natural advantage; having personal knowledge of the cultural aspects of his/her respective minority group.  So that candidate would know the answer better than someone who simply read the textbook.

Where were the lawyers from DOJ and other places crying foul over this; for if you apply the ridiculous reasoning in this latest lawsuit to the situation in 2002, then white males and females would have been disparaged, not provided due process, and should have had their scores adjusted. Furthermore, all white males and females who didn't get promoted off the 2002 through 2005 list should be awarded promotions, back pay, and damages.  Where was the DOJ and the lawyers then??? Oh, of course, NOBODY complained.  We simply read the book, studied and took our tests.

I know with a Presidential Administration such as the current debacle, it is hard to ask for people to hold themselves accountable and simply say, I didn't do as well as I could, period. But, especially now, since the DOJ really hasn't handled any "crisis" since the Rodney King days of 1991; the DOJ will lend the sympathetic ear to these BASELESS claims.

People, it's pretty simple-you are informed of the written material that will be the subject of the test, you are afforded months of study time, all have the open capability to sign up for one of the many study groups to increase your chances of success.  If you choose not to study, or if you have been the subject of negative disciplinary penalties (which affect your score), then stand up and say "I could have done better-I FAILED MYSELF) and try again next time, period.

I shudder, cringe, and almost want to vomit at what this country is fostering-a socialist society of enablers.  Because I worked really hard, kept my nose clean, and got promoted; now I have to share that award (or give it away to) with another person who doesn't deserve it.  It's Obama and Company's Socialism 101-now part of the NJ Dept. of Personnel/Civil Service Commission.

-21 year veteran

Is anyone counter suing the DOJ or seeking any type of court order to compel the CSC to release the scores?  is this on anyone's mind?  Can the state FOP or PBA fund legal payment and initiate this? 

Working as a Law Enforcement Officer in the State of New Jersey is difficult enough as it is.  We have more restrictions and sanctions restricting our actions than any other state.  The current Sergeant’s exam is directly related to our job functions and serves as a measure to ensure that those tasked with supervising police personnel have a somewhat comprehensive knowledge of the laws of this state.  It has absolutely nothing to do with race whatsoever.  If you apply yourself and take the initiative to study and learn what is necessary, you will perform well on the test.  To promote less qualified individuals that may not have demonstrated the necessary proficiencies will put the state, the municipality, and the people they protect in danger.  The test is not racially biased, however, the content of this lawsuit is racially biased.  Caucasian males appear to be the ONLY group that cannot be discriminated against according to our government.  It needs to stop. 

I'll have to agree with a few of you, it's difficult to claim that a test is discriminatory when you are provided with the same study material and prep courses every one else has.  In my opinion I would have to say that discrimination in NJ LE is more confined to the simple entry level position that many people seek.  Lets be honest here, how many small police department do we have here in NJ that include fathers, sons, uncles, brothers, and cousins. True discrimination in NJ LE is not limited to just race but also connections.

In order to limit this practice smaller departments should be consolidated to become larger departments and testing should be mandatory.  When you Test it's hard to justify why you hired the guy who scored a 70 over the guy who scored a 90.  One thing many people don't understand is that if your a minority police officer the minority community makes you an outcast, and your great brothers in blue distrust you because you don't have the same last name as they do or have a darker tan.  It doesn't feel great when your outside looking in and and the only thing you want is to do your best.  There really are a lot of departments here in NJ who don't even test people for promotions.  You just come in to work and there's a wonderful gold badge in your mail box. 

If your lucky and get OTJ then you might as well sell your soul to your commanders if you have any hope of moving up the chain.

But that's my opinion and maybe I'm just cranky because my snow blower broke in the middle of this blizzard.

First of all the sergeant exam is not discriminatory and this is coming from a minority male.  Second, the one post about years of discrimination is correct but it happen like you said "45 years ago" so we as a people can not continue to bring up the past.  Third, some departments don't even have a testing policy and just hand out promotions to their friends and family, so the testing process might not be perfect but it at least gives you an opportunity.  For the comment about scholarships for just blacks and affirmative action you can complain about that as well if you like but without that minorities of all races would continue to be overlooked on the basis of ethnicity.  Affirmative action is not perfect but like a testing process it gives at least some form of equal opportunity to everyone.  This problem doesn't just affect whites it affects everyone we all supposedly bleed blue.  This profession does not see color and as a law enforcement officer I ask that all my fellow brother officers stand together and dispute this claim of racial discrimination in regards to the sergeants exam.  The only thing that all these posts will do is cause dissention within the law enforcement community.  In closing in order to score well on these tests is to study, take the prep classes, and get a good night sleep.

All the tests are based on JOB KNOWLEDGE and reading books that are given months in advance. This state is fast becoming a bigger joke than it already is. I know, lets just promote all minorities or give them 15 extra points for putting their name on the test correctly.  What a joke!  I have spoken to several officers at my dept. who happen to be minorities and they are ashamed of this law suit and have said to a man that the test is job related. again what a joke.

All of the years I attended school I remained distracted and could not concentrate on my work because I couldn't stop thinking about my peoples former oppression, this is why I score lower on the test. What a bunch of crap. I would be embarrassed to be handed a rank. Sort of sounds like welfare for LE!

I don't understand how something is "discriminatory" when everyone can get the same study material.  Look you are either going to do good on the test or your not.  It doesn't matter your race or sex.  I have stated before I am not a very good test taker.  It took me three tries to get a really good score on the DOP Civil Service Test.  Why should anyone who did well on the Sgt. exam be punished because I am sure there are minorities that did well and have a decent ranking.  So for the US DOJ maybe you should worry about getting funding to police departments that can't afford new equipment or hire new officers that should be your concern, and not about a test that everyone is able to study for.

Caucasian males dominate law enforcement in this state and elsewhere. Why? Because Caucasians males have had over a 100 year head start in getting there families rooted in the communities, with good jobs and being able to afford to live anywhere they want because of the ''JIM CROW'' laws which only ended in 1965. You telling me this hasn't help Caucasian get a foot hold in Law Enforcement over the years, decades and hire who only looks like them regardless if the minority individual was better qualified than his/her white counterpart?

This still happens today believe it or not. So all of you Caucasian males who are whining over affirmative action need to get over it. If the playing field wasn't tainted years ago there would be no need for affirmative action in Law Enforcement.

This is 2010 and there are still PD's in this state that have no minorities and would like to keep it that way. I know I work right next to one and their little 15 man department loves it. They wont say it openly but its been discussed behind closed doors. One of my good friends who is Caucasian works there and basically told me they don't want any Minorities working there and would rather keep it that way. So Caucasian males suck it up and deal with it. If you feel you have been discriminated against its your right to file a lawsuit, don't sit back whine and do nothing.


Wow what fantasy world do you live in bud. White males have it one million times worse then anyone. As anyone who's getting hired these days... it sure isn't the white male. Oh and whites are still so racist. The last time I heard anyone say anything about a black person was years ago but blacks seem to run there mouths about white Leo's non stop like right now. This state needs a reality check. The Sgt exam too hard because they don't have proper schooling because only whites can afford college. How about all those scholarships for blacks only. And the one guy who tried to make a whites only scholarship... guess what he was sued for discrimination. get off your gosh darn high horse. Everyone is equal but not these days with the NAACP and people within the DOJ thinking a test could be discriminatory.....Get a Life


This is ridiculous that you claim the 15 man department likes the fact that there are no minorities working there.  If your so sure just post your friends name and the department.  You won't because you like being a mystery man who stirs up crap.  I am Caucasian and I studied for the Sgt's exam.  I came out in the nineties amongst my colleagues.  I guess being Caucasian didn't help me out.  Claiming you can't pass the test due to race is a cop out.  You can sit there and study as much or as little as you want.  Fact of the matter is you need to put the work in.  That's right, hard work pays off.  I don't think they should be handing out Sgt, Lt, or Capt. ranks to anybody who is not qualified. 

So should the Caucasian male start sounding the alarm for discrimination. Since they/we are not African American, female or Hispanic, they/we should automatically be disqualified from the process. This is getting worse and worse every year. I think the Caucasian American whom is now the one being discriminated against should stand up for themselves, or would that be discrimination too.









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