New Haven City Promotion Exams Face Legal Challenge Again

Group of police officers claim race played a role in City's handling of promotion tests.

By Amanda Raus
|  Monday, Nov 19, 2012  |  Updated 12:32 PM EDT
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Ten New Haven Police Officers are suing the City for discrimination on a 2009 promotional exam. Now they want future promotions stopped till their case is heard.

Amanda Raus, Chris Podosek

Ten New Haven Police Officers are suing the City for discrimination on a 2009 promotional exam. Now they want future promotions stopped till their case is heard.

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A lawyer for a group of 10 African-American New Haven police officers has filed a request for an injunction to prevent several Latino and other officers from receiving promotions and the city has agreed to take no actions on promotions until the hearing is held next month.

The 10 officers and others passed a test to be promoted to sergeant in 2009.

"The test was submitted to the New Haven Civil Service Commission for certification. They looked at it, and right then on the record in public, they started talking about 'hey there's no Latinos on the list. There's something wrong with that,'" said attorney John Williams, who is representing the group of ten officers.

According to Williams, the city only held the results of the test for one year instead of the normal two. That means the officers who passed were only eligible for promotions one year after the test.

"You make promotions as openings or vacancies occur, and so obviously in that second year there would be, and in fact were, vacancies that would have been filled with my clients but the fact they killed the list," said Williams.

There has since been a new sergeant's exam, and the promotions will be given any day now. Williams said the new test caters to making sure Latinos are promoted, and he has filed a request for an injunction on the promotions until his case is heard.

The City of New Haven plans on fighting the court action.

"The City will be responding in court to the motion for temporary injunction. Until that time, suffice it to say that the motion lacks merit. Hiring and promotional decisions at the New Haven Police Department are done in accordance with the law and based on the broad public safety interests of all of the City's residents, rather than the limited interests of a few individuals," said New Haven Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden.

But Williams said his case is eerily similar to the Ricci vs. New Haven case where 20 white firefighters sued New Haven and won in the U.S. Supreme Court because the city threw out the results of a promotions exam that city leaders felt wasn't fair to African-American firefighters.

"I think this is the same as the Ricci case, exactly the same," said Williams.

A hearing on the temporary injunction will be held on Dec 5 at 9:15 a.m at New Haven Superior Court. 

Until then, City has agreed not to do anything with promotions.

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