Investigates

11 Investigates: Former Pittsburgh Police recruits request 2nd chance

PITTSBURGH — There are new questions about the controversial psychological interviews that eliminated nearly all of the Pittsburgh Police recruits from the upcoming academy class.

After 11 Investigates broke the story, the city announced they were bringing in a new psychologist and the recruits would get a second chance.

>> 11 Investigates Exclusive: Black Pittsburgh police recruits eliminated after psychological testing

Chief Investigator Rick Earle discovered that some former recruits eliminated during the same psychological interviews last year are now requesting another shot.

“My dream job, yeah it’s been my dream job since I was a kid,” said a male recruit who was eliminated last year.

“I had thought to myself I would like to be a police officer one day, you know, so this is something that’s been a career goal of mine since I was a child,” said a female recruit who was also eliminated last year.

Two former Pittsburgh Police recruits from different walks of life.

One, a white man, grew up in Bloomfield and went to Duquesne University.

The other, a Black woman, from the North Side, got her associate’s degree in criminal justice from CCAC.

Both passed most of the requirements, only to be eliminated after psychological interviews.

“Crushed my dreams,” said the man, who added that he thought the process was unfair.

“I was heartbroken. I trained for this. I did research. I talked to officers who said, ‘Go ahead and apply, you’re doing a job that no one wants to do anymore,’ and I felt proud to do that,” said the woman.

An 11 Investigates exclusive report revealed the majority of African American candidates for the May academy class were eliminated after psychological interviews.

Chief Investigator Rick Earle spoke by phone with some who had law enforcement backgrounds and passed other psychological tests.

They didn’t want to be identified, but they raised concerns about questions, like whether they own or rent their homes.

“When you are asking about anything to do with finances, I mean it’s well known that that leads to biased results just because of the legacy of Jim Crow,” said Vic Walczak, of the American Civil Liberties Union.

A decade ago, the ACLU sued the city for discriminatory practices in the recruiting process.

The city agreed to change the written and oral tests.

The suit did not address the psychological tests.

And the two candidates eliminated last year had similar concerns about the line of questioning.

“Count my ABC’s backwards. Very odd. I struggled. There were words I had to spell backwards,” said the woman.

“They were asking pretty silly questions. He told me to start from 100, subtract seven until you get to zero,” said the man.

After our initial report, the Public Safety Director confirmed that 26 of 32 candidates for the upcoming class had been rejected by the psychologists.

“It’s a big concern. That’s why we started doing some due diligence to find out what we needed to do,” said Mayor Ed Gainey.

The Mayor and Public Safety Director were so concerned that they are now reviewing the entire process and hiring a new psychologist to retest the candidates.

The candidates eliminated last year said they wonder how long the city has been using these psychologists and how many qualified applicants have been eliminated during the process.

When he reached out to the city to see if he could get a second chance, he was told it only applies to the current recruiting class.

“Very disappointed. It just makes no sense,” said the man, who thought he deserved a second shot.

“I think they should give everyone who had applied recently a second chance. I’m glad they’re opening the doors,” said the woman, who also indicated she would consider a second chance at becoming a Pittsburgh police officer.

Earle has learned there may be some wiggle room in all of this. A police spokesperson told Earle the city is now reviewing the entire testing process and will likely have an announcement soon.

That announcement will include how any updates to the testing process may impact past recruits.

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