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Firm to help city with its police-hiring policy

Published: Fri, October 29, 2010 @ 12:08 a.m.

By David Skolnick



The city will pay at least $10,500 to a firm to help change its policy on hiring police officers.

The city’s dual hiring lists — one for white men and the other for minorities and females — for those seeking to be police officers and firefighters has faced criticism from city officials and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The board of control voted Thursday to hire Barrett & Associates, a Cuyahoga Falls firm that specializes in legal and human-resources consulting.

Officials with the firm will meet shortly with the city administration to discuss what needs to be done to change Youngstown’s hiring policies regarding police officers, Mayor Jay Williams said.

The city’s current practice is to hire one minority or woman for every two men they hire in the police and fire departments.

The city’s long-standing policy with two lists could result in lawsuits, Williams said. A federal appeals court declared the use of two lists by Shreveport, La., to be unconstitutional in 2006.

“The way of doing this is no longer acceptable,” Williams said.

Taking care of the police issue comes first.

The city plans to have an entry-level police-officer test early next year, said Law Director Iris Torres Guglucello. The current civil- service list for police officers expires next month, she said.

The city later will address firefighters. A test for fire department hires, if there are to be any, would be in April at the earliest.

Minorities and women don’t typically score as high on the written test as white men, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified, Williams said.

The city needs to maintain a qualified work force that can’t be challenged as being discriminatory, he said.

Williams has proposed putting everyone who passes the written test on one list and then have city administrators pick qualified candidates. A passing grade is 70.

That proposal drew criticism from Abigail Thernstrom, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ vice chairwoman. In a statement last month to The Vindicator, she wrote that allowing the appointment of anyone who passes the written test would still violate the law if the hirings were based on race and gender.

The city will pay $10,500 to Barrett & Associates to help develop a civil-service test policy for police officers that would meet state and federal legal standards.

The city can also pay $14,035 more for other options, including having Barrett develop and oversee a physical-agility test, create a study guide for those wanting to take the test, and have preparation classes for those interested in taking the test.

The city plans a “significant outreach” to find people wanting to take the police entry exam, particularly minorities, Williams said.

It will be the responsibility of those who argue, sometimes accurately, about the lack of diversity in the city’s hiring to get the word out about the exam, Williams said. That includes churches, the NAACP, the Urban League, and the Organizacion Civica y Cultural Hispana America, he said.

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