PA City's Police Test Ruled Invalid

December 22, 2005 ( - The city of Erie, Pennsylvania improperly required all police officer applicants to take a physical ability test even though the test ended up ruling out most female officer candidates.

That was the conclusion of a federal judge after a four-day trial of a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice against the city over the police test issue, reported. Federal officials charged that the Erie test violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it had an unlawful impact against women and did not predict whether an applicant was able to perform the police officer job successfully.

About 87% of female applicants failed the test, while only 29% of their male counterparts failed it, the court said. The court also found that, after using the test between 1994 and 2004, only about 4% of Erie’s sworn police officers were women.

Erie’s physical ability test consisted of an obstacle course run, followed by a series of push-ups and sit-ups, all of which applicants had to complete in 90 seconds. In the ruling issued this month, the court held that Erie failed to prove that the test was job related.

The Department of Justice argued that the addition of the push-ups and sit-ups components to the obstacle course run was not justified.