CC_Flickr: mikebaird

CC_Flickr: mikebaird

The U.S. Justice Department, in a July 3 lawsuit, accused the Corpus Christi (Texas) Police Department of discriminating against women with its hiring practices.

Between 2005 and 2011, female physical ability test pass rates were 80% lower than those of their male counterparts, according to the Justice Department. These tests allegedly violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which was amended in 1991. Unfortunately, these types of tests tend to eliminate females from consideration at a higher rate than males.

There are two major inconsistencies when using physical ability tests as hiring criteria. I've studied these inconsistencies, and believe we're addressing them as members of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Diversity Council.

There's a pattern across police departments in this country where the physical ability hiring standard is higher than the physical ability post-hiring standard. A major problem with using physical ability tests as hiring criteria is that an applicant must be fit when hired, but in many police departments, they can deteriorate significantly once they obtain seniority.

Another inconsistency in these tests is that many departments still utilize physical ability tests that don't relate to the job. I know of at least one physical ability test in which a person must bench press the equivalent of his or her body weight. The testing community knows how to address these problems. The police community knows how to address these problems. Why hasn't the issue been addressed?

If a female becomes interested in pursuing a career as a police officer, she should perform a self-assessment. Here's a checklist of questions prospective female police officers should ask when applying for the job or a promotion:

  • What are the specific skills, knowledge, and personality characteristics required of police?
  • Is the organizational structure friendly and open to women and diversity? Many are!
  • What is the promotion potential?
  • What is the selection process?
  • How do I prepare for that process?

Applicants who come prepared with this information should land the job!

Cassi Fields is the CEO of LeT Corp. and Fields Consulting Group, which offer products and services to clients to advance their careers and promote diversity in the workplace.