The Pennsylvania State Police won’t be “bullied” by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) into changing its physical fitness standards, which the federal government claims illegally discriminate against female applicants.
State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said July 30 the PSP will go to court with the DOJ over its complaint, which alleges the state police’s use of two physical fitness tests to screen and select entry-level state troopers is discriminatory against female applicants.
According to the Justice Department’s lawsuit, 94 percent of male applicants passed the entry-level physical fitness test, while 71 percent of female applicants passed; from 2009 to present, 98 percent of male applicants passed, while 72 percent of female applicants passed. The lawsuit states the fitness tests likely prevented 45 women, between 2003 and 2012, from being hired as entry-level troopers, assuming the female applicants had passed the test at the same rate as male applicants.
The test, developed by FITFORCE Inc., from 2003 to 2008 consisted of a 300-meter run; sit-ups; push-ups; a vertical jump; a 1.5-mile run; and an agility run. In 2009 (and to the present), Noonan said they eliminated the sit-ups portion of the test.
The difference between males and females who passed the test is statistically significant, the lawsuit says.
“If we have 100 percent of the males and 95 percent of the females passing the test, it’s not a test,” Noonan said. Using figures listed in the complaint, PSP was within 5 percent of DOJ’s target passage rate for females.
Sgt. Linette Quinn, a 20-year veteran of the PSP, said the fitness standards in place are appropriate.
“I think that the standards that we have in place are acceptable, I think they’re achievable and I believe separating those standards for male or female wouldn’t be appropriate for this department,” said Quinn.
“One thing they are adamant about when I talk to them (female troopers) is they do not want separate standards for this job,” Noonan said, “because invariably that would make them second-class troopers – troopers that can’t meet the regular standards.”
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division began investigating the PSP’s female hiring practices in 2009, and the department says they fully cooperated by handing over names and sexes of all applicants, the validation of the 2009 Physical Readiness Test and documents showing how cadet applicants are processed, according to the PSP.
Noonan said he was concerned the lawsuit would discourage women from applying to the academy because they might think PSP discriminates against women.
“… nothing could be farther from the truth,” said Noonan, noting PSP recruitment focuses on minorities and women.
Noonan said it was his understanding the DOJ is seeking monetary payment to dozens of female applicants who failed the entry-level physical fitness test.
“They won’t tell you what to do, they just tell you you’re doing it wrong,” he said, noting the only option offered by DOJ was a consent decree, which he said he is “absolutely opposed to.”
Noonan said the Office of Attorney General is representing the commonwealth against the Justice Department.