I spotted a story on Digg yesterday about a judge ruling that an applicant to the New London police force who had argued he was rejected because he scored to HIGH on an abridged IQ-test was not being discriminated against – because all applicants were subjected to the same standards.

“Judge Peter C. Dorsey of the United States District Court in New Haven agreed that the plaintiff, Robert Jordan, was denied an opportunity to interview for a police job because of his high test scores. But he said that that did not mean Mr. Jordan was a victim of discrimination” the paper reported.

Following, “Judge Dorsey ruled that Mr. Jordan was not denied equal protection because the city of New London applied the same standard to everyone: anyone who scored too high was rejected.”

Mr. Jordan apparently told the paper, ”I was eliminated on the basis of my intellectual makeup,” he said. ”It’s the same as discrimination on the basis of gender or religion or race.”

I remembered hearing about this case a few years ago and went back to find some of the original stories only to find this case appears to have been in the courts for a decade, with original reports of the case’s filing from 1997.  My favorite of what I found from that time was a reprinted AP story on the Car Talk site.

From that report, “Jordan says Assistant City Manager Keith Harrigan, who oversees hiring for the city, told him: “We don’t like to hire people that have too high an IQ to be cops in this city.”

…and followed, “Monaco and the city’s deputy police chief, William C. Gavitt, have said in the past that candidates who score too high could tire of police work and leave not long after undergoing costly academy training. The city spends an estimated $25,000 to train a police officer.”

Apparently Jordan scored a 33 on the IQ-test-lite, which is estimated to be equivalent to a 125 on a full test.  The department’s policy is to interview (and therefore only hire) applicants with scores ranging from 20-27.  The original AP story also reports:

“The average score nationally for police officers, as well as general office workers, bank tellers and salespeople, is 21 to 22.”

which is pretty sad if the range is only from 20-27!!!

On the surface, I find this completely outrageous, especially as society need ever more critical judgement from its police officers.

However, as far as the case goes, I think this Jordan fellow could have used a few extra IQ points.  His argument that discriminating on the basis of his higher IQ is akin to discriminating on the basis of race and gender is a bit faulty on the logic tip, as there are no standards whatsoever for racial makeup or gender identity.

The problem with his argument is that there is a lower bound (20 in the 20-27 range) that’s applied and which we’d probably all have a problem removing.  So to say that they shouldn’t discriminate on the basis of IQ is saying IQ is not a legitimate factor for consideration.  A more accurate comparison may have been age, where it’s obvious that there should be a lower bound that excludes minors while an upper bound that arbitrarily restricts age is capricious.  If you’re 60 but can still blaze through academy training, then more power to you.  Another reasonable comparison might be physical fitness.  Obviously unfit individuals are a burden on other offices and may jeopardize the lives of their partners, therefore legitimizing physical fitness as a criteria for consideration.  But what would the opposite bound be… if you’re too fit, so fit in fact that you refuse to scarf donuts and greasy meals with your fellow officers; they might feel uncomfortable and put-off by your stand, which could lead to a hostile work environment, therefore, you shouldn’t be too fit.

I think those comparisons move the department’s procedures more clearly into the ludicrous category.

The city’s apparent claim that hiring officers with high IQs would lead to increased attrition and therefore loss of money spent on training is a valid concern.  But it’s shortsighted to jump from there to the policy they’ve enacted.  Their reasoning goes something like this: High IQ ==> bored ==> quit = department loses money.  But are they saying that only officers with higher IQs get bored or is it just that they have more employment potential, so they precieve quiting as an alternative to boredom?  If this is true, then maybe officers of any IQ are just as likely to get bored and the attrition rate has more to do with their access to alternative employment.  Okay, let’s assume that’s the case for a moment, then all these cops are bored.  What do the officers in the 21-22 IQ-score range do when they get bored? Hmm or this more applicable story.

A bored officer without alternative employment as lucrative or stable as the police force may be more inclined to just ‘stick it out,’ but that doesn’t mean there are no other repercussions.  They may end up being more likely to engage in inappropriate behavior simply as an alternative to boredom, even if it diminishes citizens’ rights.

I would have liked to have seen this guy’s lawsuit lead to an addressing of the underlined complaint here, that officers get bored, rather than the focusing solely on the the potential loss of money through attrition.

Let’s see what youtube finds for us… this list