01 September 2014

Disparate Impact, or
Who Needs an Officer in Adequate Shape?

The federal government is suing the Pennsylvania State Police because the PSP does not hire enough women.  Period. Not because the PSP is discriminating against women, but because the physical fitness test required to be considered as a possible trooper has more female failures than it does males and therefore should be eliminated because it has a disparate impact.

When I first read that, I pictured the test as being a 5 mile ruck march with 100 pound rucksacks followed by a mandatory 75 pushups followed by a two mile run that had to be done under 14 minutes - you know, the kind of thing you have to be raised in Kansas by Ma and Pa Kent to pass. But no, the test is actually rather easy:
300 meter run in 1 minute and 17 seconds
13 push-ups
14-inch vertical leap
1.5 miles in 17 minutes and 48 seconds
Anyone considering a career in law enforcement anywhere should be able to pass that test.  Male, Female, Gorn, Anyone. In fact, 98% of males do. However, only 72% of female applicants pass the physical fitness test. This is unacceptable to the federal government.

The federal government filed suit in July, claiming the PFT "is not job-related for the entry-level trooper position." You heard it here first folks, a bare minimum of physical capabilities is not needed to go out and face down drunk idiots who want to fight when they are pulled over for DUI. Somebody in a federal office somewhere isn't thinking this through.

As of yet, the PSP isn't backing down.  The head of the PSP stood his ground, pointing out, "This is not an impossible task.  We're not looking for Olympic athletes."  Good for the PSP. I hope it holds its ground and backs the Justice Department down.

Unfortunately, the federal government has infinitely deep pockets.  The Justice Department will probably be able to force its will on the PSP, which I suspect has limited resources (and better uses for them elsewhere). In the end, the most likely result is that the Justice Department will enforce its 80% rule on the PSP. The 80% rule is an arbitrary number chosen by some committee in California in 1971 and it goes something like this: If you hire 100 X's (unprotected class) then you must hire 80 Y's (protected class).  I think this rule may have run into some trouble in the courts and the federal filing also pushes a random selection standard which basically says: If this PFT did not exist and a random 100 people applied there would have been Y more of the protected class hired. Nevertheless, the goal, whether stated or not, will be 80%.

Currently, the number of females hired for every 100 males is about 73. If forced to change the standard the best way to do it would be to maintain the current standard for females and raise the standard for males until the number of males passing dropped and the 80% standard was reached.  There are two problems with this. First, it will emphasize that females accepted into the PSP are inferior. Second, it may open the PSP to reverse discrimination lawsuits because, unlike the current situation, this would be a clear and purposefully chosen discriminatory act.

So, where does that leave the PSP? If the Justice Department gets its way, the PSP will most likely just have to drop the PFT. And then the troopers going into the field - both male and female - will be degraded. Sure, the top troopers will still be superior, but the bottom 10% or so will drop even further in quality and the majority of those troopers will be female - forever.

The Justice Department isn't thinking this through. This isn't a case wherein affirmative action will eventually cause equalization in abilities. If German-American Catholics (GAC) are undereducated and forced to take lower paying jobs, the government forcing the acceptance of GAC's forces lower quality students and workers into positions they are less qualified for, but by the second or third generation GAC's should be satisfactorily improved in their qualifications. However, if GAC's are congenitally born with only one working lung no matter how many generations of GAC's you require the U.S. Olympic sprinting team to take the GAC's will not improve into that role.  The federal government does not seem able to make that distinction.

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