City To Pay More Than $1 Million Over ACLU Police Diversity Lawsuit

May 7, 2015

Mayor Bill Peduto speaks at a news conference alongside ACLU and community leaders Thursday regarding the resolution of a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination in hiring practices.
Credit Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh officials vowed to remedy a long-standing lack of diversity on its police force with the resolution of a federal lawsuit alleging discrimination in hiring practices.

In a tentative agreement announced Thursday, the city agreed to pay $985,000 plus court costs to eligible black police academy applicants who were not issued job offers between 2008 and 2014.

Existing officers will also be encouraged to hold recruiting events and information sessions, create a candidate mentor program, incorporate social media, offer free test preparation and partner with schools and community groups.

The settlement stems from a 2012 complaint brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in which five minority applicants scored high in police testing but were passed over for job offers. A subsequent report found evidence of systemic bias, city solicitor Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge said.

Pittsburgh police should be racially representative of the community they serve, Mayor Bill Peduto said.

"(This) has required a hard look in the mirror, and will take time and patience to achieve, but in the end we will have a qualified, competent and diverse police force that our neighborhoods and officers are even more proud of."

According to the lawsuit, approximately 20 percent of applicants to the Pittsburgh police force in the last few years were black, but only 4 percent were eventually hired.

Black officers make up about 13 percent of the current force, down from 17 percent in 2010. The latest census shows 26 percent of the city population is black.

“There isn't a silver bullet to fixing this problem,” said Vic Walczak, state legal director of the ACLU.

“There were a lot of problems. I think the important thing to take away from today is that … we have leadership in the City of Pittsburgh that's committed to fixing this problem, and we're really excited to be part of that.”

Pending approval by City Council and federal court officials, Walczak said the process could take as long as two years to complete.