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HILLER v. COUNTY OF SUFFOLK

September 25, 1997

MELISSA HILLER, RYAN SEFTON, ROBERT ETHRIDGE, ROBERT HOGAN, and RYAN DURYEE, Plaintiffs, against COUNTY OF SUFFOLK, SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, POLICE COMMISSIONER PETER COSGROVE, SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE ROBERT GAFNEY, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SEYBERT

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 SEYBERT, District Judge:

 BACKGROUND

 On November 3, 1995, plaintiffs commenced the instant action asserting claims against the defendants for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and § 296 of the New York Executive Law. Specifically, plaintiffs Melissa Hiller, Ryan Sefton, Robert Etheridge, Robert Hogan and Ryan Duryee assert that they have been discriminated against on the basis of race and color as the result of an affirmative action program instituted by the Suffolk County Police Department (hereinafter "SCPD"). The challenged program is commonly known as the Suffolk County Police Cadet Program and excludes non-minorities from admission into, and the benefits of, the program in favor of black and Hispanic people.

 1. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE CONSENT DECREE

 In 1983, the United States of America filed an action alleging that the County was engaged in a pattern or practice of employment discrimination against women, blacks and Hispanics with respect to job opportunities in the SCPD. Specifically, the complaint alleged that just 59 of 2,580 sworn officers, or 2.3%, were Black or Hispanic and that only 25 or 0.9% were women. Exhibit C, P 14, at 4. *fn1" The United States alleged that the County's policies and practices discriminated because (1) the County failed to "recruit, hire, assign and promote women, Blacks and Hispanics on an equal basis with white Anglo males;" (2) the standards in hiring and promoting in the SCPD have a "disproportionately adverse impact" on women, Blacks and Hispanics; (3) the County did not establish objective standards to prevent this discrimination; and (4) the County failed to take proper steps to "correct the present effects of past discriminatory policies and practices." Exhibit C at 5-6. The County answered that suit by specifically denying that it had done any of the acts alleged by the United States. Exhibit D. On September 12, 1986, the County and the United States settled the action by executing a Consent Decree entered by the Honorable Eugene H. Nickerson. *fn2" Exhibit E. It has been brought to the Court's attention that the Department of Justice has continued to investigate the hiring, promotion, and disciplinary practices of the SCPD.

 2. RESULTS DESIRED WERE NOT ACHIEVED

 In 1993, the SCPD concluded that despite its efforts under the 1986 Consent Decree, which included a massive recruitment effort and the administration of two open competitive examinations validated in accordance with the 1986 Consent Decree, it failed to realize a true representation of the minority community in the County. Exhibit G. In view of its conclusion that blacks and Hispanics were under-represented in the Department, the SCPD advised the Justice Department that it was creating the Cadet Program at issue here. The memorandum indicated that the program was designed to augment the diversification of the SCPD and to benefit the disadvantaged groups identified in the consent degree. The Justice Department apparently did not reply.

 3. THE CADET PROGRAM

 The Police Cadet Program essentially selected black and Hispanic candidates only, who were then required to complete a two-year criminal justice degree program, tuition-free, at Suffolk County Community and to work for the SCPD in the title of Police Service Aide *fn3" for $ 10 per hour. On or about June 8, 1996, the Cadets were administered the Suffolk County Police Officer examination. Although identical in all respects to the open competitive examination for Suffolk County Police Officer given the same day, the Cadet examination was denominated a promotional examination. As per the terms of the Cadet Program, a passing grade entitles the Cadet to a "promotion" to the rank of Police Officer. This means that all qualified Police Cadets will be considered for appointment before any other candidate on the eligible list, irrespective of examination grade. Hartvik affidavit, P 12, at 3. Accordingly, the Cadets are ensured seniority and earlier receipt of various other benefits as police officers.

 There were initially 43 candidates accepted for the program, 31 sat for and passed the examination and currently 29 Police Cadets remain in the program. For reasons unrelated to this matter, no appointments have been made from either the promotional or the open competitive list for Police Officer.

 4. THE PLAINTIFFS' APPLICATIONS

 There is no dispute that each of the plaintiffs applied for the program in 1994, and it appears that all parties agree that each plaintiff was rejected because they are not black or Hispanic. The County informed each plaintiff in writing that their applications had been "reviewed with great care and, of course, complete objectivity" and that the reason for their rejection was "based on information [the applicant] supplied in the application packet and on the results of various examinations." Plaintiffs' Complaint, PP 30, 55, 79, 102, 127; see Plaintiffs' Exhibit A, attached to Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law (a letter to plaintiff Sefton of June 1, 1994, which is identical to letters given to other Plaintiffs). None of the ...


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