The Pennsylvania State Police will fight a federal Department of Justice suit alleging that physical fitness tests required for prospective state troopers discriminated against women, officials said Wednesday.
The Department of Justice filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Harrisburg, Pa., alleging that the tests used to judge applicants to the state Police Academy discriminated against women. The tests measured skills that were unneeded and kept dozens of women from becoming troopers, the government said.
State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan sharply disagreed Wednesday at a news conference.
“I am extremely disappointed in the decision of the U.S. Department of Justice to file suit in an attempt to force PSP to lower the standards of its physical readiness test,” Noonan stated.
“To lower the physical fitness standards for applicants would be insulting to those men and women who already strove to achieve those standards and, more importantly, would endanger current and future troopers, the residents of Pennsylvania and all individuals served by the distinguished men and women of the Pennsylvania State Police,” Noonan said.
“We should not be bullied into lowering our standards for any applicants.”
According to the PSP, the standards are: 300-meter run, 77 seconds; pushups, 13; vertical jump, 14 inches; 1.5-mile run, 17 minutes, 48 seconds; and an a agility run, 23.5 seconds.
From 2003 through 2008, 94% of male applicants passed the entry test while only 71% of female applicants did so, which the Justice Department said that was a statistically significant disparity. Justice is seeking a court order to have the test stopped, and to provide back pay, hiring offers and retroactive seniority for women whom the test discriminated against, the department said in a statement.
“The Department of Justice is deeply committed to eliminating artificial barriers that keep qualified women out of public safety work,” the acting assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, Jocelyn Samuels, said in a statement.
“The state police have gone to great lengths and expense to develop a physical readiness test that measures the fitness level and physical abilities necessary to be a Pennsylvania state trooper,” Noonan said. “Even using the figures listed in the DOJ complaint, PSP was within 5% of DOJ’s target passage rate for females.”