The legal issue in this case is whether or not the tests conducted by the Chicago Police Department (or CPD) for promotion to the rank of sergeant violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The court ruled that there was no violation of the Equal Protection clause. Even though the court acknowledged that the process of developing the test was created from data that reflected the views of white sergeants, the court also took into account that the raw scores of the tests were standardized based on race. This standardization eliminated whatever possible advantage the white exam takers had over the minority exam takers.
Based on the testimony of Professor Samuel Walker about the lack of trust and the belief on police misconduct that was rampant among the minority group, the court concluded that the CPD needed a racially diverse police force. The compelling interest this would fulfill is the public trust and confidence which would follow if the police force had people of the same race as the minority groups. This public trust and confidence would further equate to greater cooperation in solving crimes which would make the police’s job easier.
The court used the requirements set by the Grutter case as their basis. According to that case, some form of discrimination is justified if there is a compelling state interest that justifies it.
Again, going back to the testimony of Professor Walker, the need for minorities in the police force was necessary to earn the trust, confidence and cooperation of the diverse city. More specifically, the need for minorities within the rank of sergeant was necessary as this rank of officers were in the position to influence people in the streets thereby improving cooperation within and outside the police force.
Another requirement of the said case was the need for the limitation of time. The tests in question were not used after 1991 nor have any race related promotions been made.
I both agree and disagree with the decision in this case. I agree with the decision to the extent that there is neither a compelling argument nor evidence of discrimination. The fact that the test was based on data reflecting the views of white sergeants does not amount to discrimination if the knowledge being tested is something all patrol officers should know regardless of their race.
However, from what I understand of the Equal Protection clause, all persons who are similarly situated must be similarly protected. Any discrimination must be based on a clear distinction to justify such discrimination. What the court failed to look into is why there were only 3 races being identified – whites, blacks and Hispanics, with everyone else in between being counted as white. In the end, 298 of the 402 promoted candidates were said to be white. But what remains a question is how many of them were actually white and, if a different race was thrown into that number, will it then not prejudice the number of white people actually promoted?