The Madison, WI, Police and Fire Commission voted Monday to stop requiring credit checks of prospective police officers. The Commission said the measure was being taken in a step to increase diversity in the department.

In a Dec. 7 memo to the commission, Madison Police Capt. Tim Patton wrote that “employers routinely utilize credit reports as an indicator of how candidates handle responsibilities and the extent to which they may be in financial distress,” Madison.com reports.

But in Madison the checks, which cost the city a total of about $700 in 2022, “are not being used in any meaningful way,” Patton said.

“Per our research, multicultural populations have disproportionately lower credit scores due to discriminatory practices that are rooted in systems of institutionalized racism,” he added. “While some might argue that people need to just ‘work hard’ and be responsible, many people of color struggle in part due to disproportionate incomes and opportunities. The impact of credit checks therefore, potentially present a disparate negative impact on multicultural candidates.”

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