Cincinnati Police Sergeants File Suit Over Promotion Test Scoring Fiasco

Three Cincinnati Police sergeants whose prospects for promotion went from certain to dismal after their exams were graded a second time have filed suit against the city and an out-of-state testing company.

Among the plaintiffs is Sgt. Ronald Childress, who joined the Cincinnati Police Department in 1995 and made sergeant in 2007. After taking the lieutenant’s exam in the spring, he says the city told him he had the highest score of all applicants. He says in the lawsuit he was told he would be promoted on July 30.

But on July 25, someone broke the news that his test score was much lower. His new test performance ranking? 25th. Childress was the biggest casualty in the rescoring of lieutenant exams by a Lynnwood, Wash., company called Ergometrics & Applied Personnel Research. The exams were administered and graded by Ergometrics in May and June. But the city says the company made “several errors” in grading, giving test-takers “wrong scores.”

The second round of grading, prompted by complaints from lower scorers on the initial test, not only inverted individual scores but led to a racial flip-flop as well. Originally, four of the top five scorers were African American. With the revised grades, the top four scorers were white.

“I am an African American and I believe that defendant city of Cincinnati requested defendant Ergometrics to investigate its original grading of the lieutenant exam because four of the top five people on the original list are African American and the fifth person is a foreign-born naturalized citizen,” Childress says in an affidavit filed with the lawsuit.

Joining Childress in the suit are Cassandra Tucker, who joined CPD in 2000 and became a sergeant in 2007, and Stefanie Torlop, who joined the force in 1998 and became a sergeant in 2005. Tucker is black. Torlop, who emigrated from Germany and became a U. S. citizen in 1997, is suing for discrimination against her national origin.

Torlop says she was told her test score put her third in line for promotion to lieutenant. Tucker says she was told her score was fifth-highest. The regrading of their tests put Torlop 19th in line, Tucker 23rd. The department had two vacancies in its lieutenant ranks at the time.

The lawsuit was filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court on Oct. 18, then moved to U. S. District Court in Cincinnati eight days later. The two sides had a settlement conference on Nov. 3, but talks were “at an impasse,” according to a note in the court file. Further discussion will take place before U. S. District Judge Michael Barrett on Nov. 28.

For now, the city of Cincinnati denies all of the plaintiffs’ claims. Further, it filed a complaint of its own against Ergometrics. It asks the court to order the company to cover the cost of all damages and expenses incurred by the city because of the erroneous test scores. It says its contract with Ergometrics calls for such reimbursement. Ergometrics did not respond to CityBeat’s request for a comment.

The test regrading flap generated a round of finger-pointing in July and August. Both the Fraternal Order of Police local and The Sentinels, which represents black officers, took issue with the test grades, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Ergometrics, which stood to receive up to $38,000 for giving the test, waived its fee. The city’s Civil Service Commission rescinded the initial test results.

Kristen Myers, one of the attorneys who filed suit for Childress, Torlop and Tucker, seeks restoration of the first test-score list in addition to monetary damages of more than $50,000 for each of the three sergeants. She asks for a full judicial review of the episode.

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