Boston’s practice of hiring one minority candidate for its police department for every white hired, a practice that flowed from a 1974 consent decree, has been invalidated by U.S. District Judge Patti Saris.
Yesterday’s ruling closes a chapter on three decades of affirmative-action hiring practices at the police and fire departments, both of which had been following 1974 federal consent decrees providing that they reach roughly the same percentage of African-American and Hispanic officers on their forces as in the city’s population.
In a 30-page opinion, Saris wrote that the Police Department has met that goal of racial parity for more than a year. A similar ruling last year by a federal appeals court found that the Fire Department had achieved racial balance among its firefighters and could no longer follow similar racial quotas.
Critics of the opinion appear to believe that legally mandated proportional representation should be a permanent fixture of “civil rights” law.
But some fear that without the court order, the Police Department will revert to being a predominantly white organization that doesn’t represent the city it is supposed to protect.
”It is critical for the Police Department in the city of Boston to adequately reflect the diversity of the population,” said Nadine Cohen, a lawyer with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. ”We are concerned that without the consent decree that the city may once again have a predominantly white police force.”
Cohen, whose group represents the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, predicted that the number of minority officers will decrease if the city adopts a new hiring policy based on test scores and statutory preferences, which include additional consideration for veterans.
Remember this argument when you hear proponents of racial preference proclaim that they do not believe in quotas.