State Police push back after Dept. of Justice files lawsuit

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jul 31, 2014 4:00 AM

Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Commissioner Noonan says he was never aware of any complaints from female recruits about the State Police's test.

(Hershey) -- The Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan say a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit alleging gender discrimination has no merit.

At a press conference, Noonan said he was disappointed the lawsuit was even filed.

He says the State Police were negotiating a resolution with the Department of Justice before the federal agency took the issue to court.

The lawsuit, brought based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleges a physical test for recruits is discriminatory because pass rates are much lower for women compared to men.

According to the lawsuit, 72 percent of women passed the test from 2009 until 2012 while nearly every man who took IT moved ahead.

Commissioner Noonan says although the military adjusts its standards for women, that's not reasonable for the State Police.

"There's one job. You're getting in the car, and being on patrol, by yourself, for 5 or 6 years, normally. That's what we're saying. That's why we don't think we can have different standards."

The test includes requirements like running 1.5 miles in less than 17:45, doing 13 push ups and passing an agility test, plus situps and a vertical jump.


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

State Police recruits work out at the Training Facility in Hershey.

"We can't say okay, we're gonna need more physical strength in this area, we'll send a stronger, in shape trooper to that area. By the nature of this job, we're out there by ourselves. A lot of times, we don't have backup," says Noonan.

Commissioner Noonan says the standards were developed by an independent group known nationally for its work in this area.

About 5 percent of State Police troopers are women (totaling about 200), and Commissioner Noonan says it's actively recruiting both women and minorities to join the force. 

The lawsuit asserts other tests exist that wouldn't impact women more harshly, while also serving "PSP's legitimate interests."

It seeks backpay with interest, employment offers, and any seniority that would have been achieved by women who failed the test.

The Department of Justice didn't immediately respond to a request for a response to the Commissioner's comments.

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