Rantz: King County Detention dramatically lowers standards for ‘equity’ hires
The King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention dramatically lowered its hiring standards to promote more people of color and LGBTQ employees. Consequently, the department effectively adopts affirmative action policies rather than hiring the candidates best suited for the job.
In 2018, the DAJD conducted an equity impact review for its Corrections Sergeants promotional process. It found that while several minority candidates applied, few passed the written exam. Rather than address why the results looked the way they did, the department lowered the threshold to pass the exam.
The move was meant to promote staffing “equity,” an increasingly meaningless term that bears no resemblance to its original definition. Instead, it ensures that underqualified candidates are being promoted when there’s increased scrutiny of members of law enforcement.
County dramatically lowers standards for equity
Corrections Sergeants manage corrections staff when booking, processing, supervising, and controlling inmates in detention. They train staff, ensure correctional facility safety, and handle emergencies that could restrain inmates.
It’s a big job requiring a deep understanding of procedures and policies.
You would first need at least a 70% score on a multiple-choice written exam before moving on to an in-person assessment to earn the job. But after the equity assessment, the DADJ director saw troubling results.
In a March 5 email obtained by the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, director John Diaz declared to staff: “It is imperative that department services and operations are in alignment with King County’s vision to create a just society where all people have equitable opportunities to thrive.”
Diaz announced that he saw too few people of color and/or LGBTQ employees passing the written exam.
They ditched scoring written exams because of equity
At the time of equity review in 2018, there were 46 total applicants for the Corrections Sergeants role. Of those, 26 (56.5%) self-identified as a person of color or LGBTQ, 18 (39.1%) as white, and 2 (4.3%) did not answer.
The raw data shows the process is equitable: a disproportionate number of minority candidates applied.
But equity is being misinterpreted as meaning equal results. Diaz expressed concern that too few minority candidates passed the written exam. He complained that “demographic statistics for applicants that scored 70% or higher vs. demographic statistics for total applicants, the department identified a lack of representation of some BIPOC groups among those who scored 70% or higher.”
But the data shows almost an equal number of minority/LGBTQ applicants (9) qualified than white candidates (10).
He ignored the data, interpreted it through a radical equity lens, and announced he was changing the criteria to pass the exam. Diaz completely removed the 70% bar to move forward in the process, even though he tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that the majority of applicants scored “just below” the 70% threshold. Why not make the threshold 60%?
This isn’t equity
Now, regardless of one’s score, applicants move on to in-person assessment, which is weighed higher (60%) than the written exam (40%) in deciding who gets promoted.
“Given the most common score was just below the 70% cut score, it was more equitable to move all applicants to the next phase of the process rather than limit the number of applicants,” Diaz tells me.
This isn’t equity. By his definition, the only equitable result would be if every applicant was given a promotion.
Also not equitable — or remotely fair? Diaz canceled in-person assessments in March for applicants who passed the written exam. Those applicant’s assessments were pushed at least 90 days.
Effectively adopting affirmative action
The policy shift makes it more likely that the DADJ implements an affirmative action policy. In his email to staff, Diaz expressed his pleasure at seeing over half the applicants identifying as minority/LGBTQ.
“It is important to both the County and I that our department’s leaders reflect the diversity of the greater community and those entrusted in our care,” Diaz noted.
Diaz spends no time in his email focused on the qualifications of applicants. Instead, he focuses on the importance of the staff’s diversity. And it’s political. He explained the process aimed to “advance equity and social justice in our workplace.”
But what does an acceptably diverse staff look like?
“It is the Department’s expectation that our leaders reflect the diversity of our uniformed personnel, which is approximately 46% people of color and 19% women,” Diaz tells me.
If that’s the case, they will promote applicants to meet that racial and gender expectation. If a white male applicant passes the test whereas an applicant of color does not, the white male applicant is now at a disadvantage. Shouldn’t the most qualified earn the job?
More troublesome, if Diaz is truly committed to contrived diversity stats similar to its uniformed personnel, he would have to actively stop people of color and women from overrepresentation within management. If a black female applicant is more qualified than a white male applicant, doesn’t she earn the job? The argument Diaz makes suggests he would stop at roughly 19% representation.
He didn’t stop, of course. Of the 55 leadership staff, 27.27% are female, and 38.18% are people of color.
Identity politics destroying the workplace
Diaz and other progressives in Seattle and King County singularly focus on identity.
They don’t seem to care if applicants want their work seen, not their racial or sexual identity. They certainly don’t care that their identity obsession puts pressure on white employees to come forward with their sexual orientation, so Diaz and Human Resources do not ignore them. If they’re white, current employees won’t see them as worthy of a promotion. But if they identify as LGBTQ? They get extra points.
Lost in this is whether or not the DADJ cares about qualifications. And Diaz chooses to frame this around identity, signaling he doesn’t think minority candidates can earn promotions without lowering standards. That’s offensive.
Privately, in an email to staff, it’s about social justice. Publicly, however, Diaz takes a more nuanced approach.
Anti-racism at work
Diaz rejects the idea that lowering the testing standards will lead to less-qualified applicants making it through.
“Leadership in a secure environment requires much more than understanding policy, which is why the assessment process also evaluates situational awareness and operational knowledge,” Diaz tells me. “Many officers with years of experience, a record of achievement, and have passed previous tests, scored just below 70%.”
None of this explanation made it into his email to staff. Instead, he vowed his “commitments to equity and social justice.”
“We cannot continue the status quo and expect a different outcome, a topic of conversation I have recently had with several staff,” he emailed to staff. “I will continue to provide everyone with updates in the future on the department’s pro-equity and anti-racist initiatives.”
For someone who claims a commitment to hiring the most qualified, it’s curious why he didn’t mention it to his staff.
Critical race theory, and everything that comes with it, have infected every department in the county. And this is one way it shows up at DADJ.
The belief that workplaces should reflect the community they serve is not new. But how many people who call 911 to report that their house is on fire care about the gender, race, or sexual orientation of the firefighter who arrives? When you’re rushed to the hospital during a heart attack, do you hold off on treatment and wait for a doctor who looks like you?
I don’t need a gay, Jewish, Republican firefighter putting out my fire or a doctor treating me in the emergency room. I want the one most qualified. Reasonable, sane people want the same.
How’s this for a radical approach: hire the person most qualified rather than meet quotas to prove your progressive bona fides. If there’s a legitimate disparate impact on any demographic, find out why and address it without lowering standards.
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