Even the NAACP took issue with the Dayton Police Department dumbing-down its test for recruits. That’s because the move is a ritualistic retreat to the Dark Ages when blacks were perceived as inferior in those qualities that count for employment or advancement. Raising the standards might attract candidates capable of making the grade.
The culprit is the U.S. Department of Justice that deemed not enough blacks had passed the exam and threw out the results. Candidates were required to get 66 percent on part one of the exam and 72 percent on part two. The rejection by the DOJ effectively blocked police officials from going forward with the hiring process at a time they were desperate to find replacements.
Dayton officials subsequently acquiesced and adopted a new DOJ-approved mandate that called for potential police officers to only score 58 percent and 63 percent to pass. But will the equivalent of “scraping the bottom of the barrel” make Dayton a better protected, safer city? The head of the police union doesn’t think so.
“It becomes a safety issue to have an incompetent officer next to you in a life and death situation,” said Dayton Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Beane.
“The NAACP does not support individuals failing a test and then having the opportunity to be gainfully employed,” said Dayton NAACP President Derrick Forward, “If you lower the score for any group of people, you’re not getting the best qualified people for the job.”
Both statements, of course, are profoundly defensible.
Like other cities, Dayton has discovered that while the candidate pool from which new recruits are selected is enormous, it is of generally poor quality, particularly in the urban core.
Substantial numbers of applicants are eliminated through background checks that turn up criminal activity and poor driving histories. Some fail written and agility tests, drug screening or wash out during an oral board test or medical and psychological exams. Others simply lack basic education skills needed to do the job. These deficiencies, though, have more to do with school system failure and a breakdown in community standards than the color of the candidates. It also bears noting that it has never been proven that the color of a cop’s skin has much to do with whether they conduct themselves in a professional, unbiased manner.
Police recruitment is also made more difficult because the best and brightest black prospects don’t choose law enforcement as a first option. Police work, after all, is dangerous. It should surprise no one that promising young men and women have no interest in subjecting themselves to a daily dose of crime and social misfits.
When the pool is narrowed to second tier candidates, cities are challenged to pick qualified candidates from, for the most part, high crime communities. That’s never easy. Even in this learning-depleted, hostile environment, though, the last thing a city wants to do is put a gun in the hands of marginally qualified cops and give them the ability to make life and death decisions. That’s a recipe for police/community chaos.
Giving special treatment to black police candidates contributes to heightened tensions that stigmatize and reinforce the myth of racial inferiority. Blacks as a group are seen as being hopelessly disadvantaged and incapable of joining the ranks of Dayton’s Finest without a government hierarchy running interference.
A less risky option would be to raise the test standard. Cops are typically underpaid. Combine higher standards and with a competitive wage and the city could have access to a broader field of better educated recruits.
Government-imposed, race-specific employment manipulation is a relic of the affirmative action past. It should not be part of Dayton’s future.
The racial fault lines being redrawn there will ultimately leave the police department grasping for credibility. Other thoughtless DOJ mandates and more superintending control are sure to follow.