Baker v. City of Detroit

Citation483 F. Supp. 930
Decision Date01 October 1979
Docket NumberCiv. No. 5-71937,5-72264.
PartiesKenneth BAKER, Arthur Bartniczak, Hanson Bratton, Patrick Jordan, Frank Krzesowik, Elbert McVay and Robert Scally, Plaintiffs in Civ. No. 5-71937, and Hanson Bratton, Gale Bogenn, William Shell, Patrick Jordan, Charles Mahoney, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated and the Detroit Police Lieutenants & Sergeants Association, Plaintiffs in Civ. No. 5-72264, v. CITY OF DETROIT, a Municipal Corporation; Philip G. Tannian, Chief of Police; Coleman A. Young, Mayor, City of Detroit; and the Board of Police Commissioners, City of Detroit, Defendants, and Guardians of Michigan, David L. Simmons, Arnold D. Payne, James E. Crawford, Clinton Donaldson, Willie Johnson, Kenneth M. Johnson and Alfred Brooks, Intervening Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Michigan




James P. Hoffa, Murray J. Chodak, Hoffa, Chodak & Robiner, Detroit, Mich., for plaintiffs in No. 5-71937.

K. Preston Oade, Jr., Bernard A. Friedman, Robert S. Harrison, Marc G. Whitefield, Lippit, Harrison, Perlove, Friedman & Zack, Southfield, Mich., for plaintiffs in No. 5-72264.

Jack Greenberg, James M. Nabrit, III, O. Peter Sherwood, Napoleon B. Williams, Lowell Johnston, Beth J. Lief, New York City, Barry L. Goldstein, Washington, D. C., James R. Andary, Sp. Asst. Corp. Counsel for the City of Detroit, George Matish, Anna Diggs-Taylor, Nancy McCaughan, James Zeman, Denise Page Hood, Law Dept., City of Detroit, Detroit, Mich., for defendants.

Warren J. Bennia, New York City, for intervening defendants.


KEITH, Circuit Judge, Sitting by Designation.


I. Procedural History
A. Statement of the Case
B. Summary of the Legal Claims
II. The History of Past Discrimination in the Detroit Police Department
A. Hiring Practices
1. 1943—The First Detroit Race Riot
2. Employment Practices 1944-53
3. Employment Practices 1954-60
4. Employment Practices 1960-67
5. The Department's Relations with the Black Community
6. The 1967 Riot
7. The Detroit Police Department 1967-68
8. 1967-1974 Employment Practices of the Detroit Police Department

(a) 1967-1971 Employment Practices

(b) 1971-1974 Employment Practices

B. Promotional Practices
1. The Racial Make-up of the Department's Supervisory Ranks 1967-1974
2. Promotional Lines of Progression
3. The Promotional Process

(a) Minimum Eligibility Requirements to Sit for the Examination

(b) The Components of the Promotional Model

(1) Service Ratings

(2) Promotional Ratings

(3) Seniority

(4) The Written Promotional Examination

(5) Veterans Preference and College Credits

(c) Additional Eligibility Requirements for Promotion

(d) The Mechanics of the Promotional System

4. Discrimination within the Promotional Model
III. Defendant's Past Discrimination Model —An Analysis
A. Relevant Labor Market
B. Defendant's Expert's Analysis
IV. 1974—The Adoption of Affirmative Action and Subsequent Occurrences
A. The Board of Police Commissioners and the Adoption of Affirmative Action
B. The Promotional Model 1974— Present; An Overview
1. Immediate Background
2. Efforts to Improve the Promotional Model

(a) Oral Boards

(b) The Written Examination

(c) Eligibility for Promotion

V. The Matter of Relative Qualifications
A. The Written Exam
B. Service Ratings
C. Confirmation Service Ratings and Officer Candidate School Scores
D. Summary
VI. The Legal Standard for Voluntary Affirmative Action
A. The Legal Claims
B. The Title VII and § 1981 Claim
1. The Weber Decision
2. Weber and the Detroit Affirmative Action Plan
3. The City's Past Violation of Title VII
C. The Constitutional Claim
1. The Board of Police Commissioners' Findings of Past Discrimination
2. Intentional Past Discrimination
3. Summary
4. Was the City's Affirmative Action Plan Reasonable?
D. State Law Claims
VII. The City's Operational Needs Defense
A. The Black Community and Racial Discrimination by the Police Department
B. Prevailing Attitudes in the Police Department
VIII. Conclusion

This case presents a host of issues regarding affirmative action and the broader question of race relations in the City of Detroit and throughout the United States. It brings into focus the tension which exists when the expectations of whites are affected by programs designed to aid minorities.

The controversy in this case can be simply summarized. In 1974, the City of Detroit commenced an affirmative action program regarding promotions in the Detroit Police Department. This program resulted in the preferential promotion of black officers. White officers considered themselves aggrieved by the program and brought this lawsuit. There exist three basic job levels1 in the Detroit Police Department: patrolman, sergeant and lieutenant. The particular controversy in this case concerns the promotion of officers from the rank of sergeant to the rank of lieutenant.2

The ordinary procedure which the Detroit Police Department uses to make promotions can be simply summarized. The candidate takes a written examination and, upon attaining a minimum score of 70, the officer's name is placed on a promotion eligibility list. The officer's rank on such a list is determined by a number of factors, including exam score, length of service in Department, ratings by superior officers, and level of college education. Although the relative weights of these factors have been shifted over the years, the general procedure has remained that after each factor has been assessed, an overall rating is given to each officer desiring promotion. The candidates for promotion are than ranked numerically from 1 to 500 or however many officers there are on the list. Ordinarily, the officers (in this case sergeants) are promoted to the higher rank (in this case lieutenant) strictly in rank order, depending on how many openings are available. Thus, if the Department needed 12 lieutenants, it would promote the top 12 sergeants on the list.

The City's affirmative action program added a simple wrinkle to the ordinary promotion procedure—it ensured that equal numbers of black and white officers would be promoted. Thus, instead of promoting in order of rank on the eligibility list, the City promoted the top white officers and the top black officers in equal numbers as needed to fill the available openings at the lieutenant's level. The problem cited by plaintiffs is that almost all of the black officers ranked lower on the list. By promoting these lower-ranking black officers, the City effectively by-passed an equal number of white officers who ranked higher on the list and who would otherwise have been promoted. Thus, if the City needed 22 lieutenants, instead of taking the top 22 sergeants on the promotion list, it would take the top 11 white sergeants and the top 11 black sergeants. White sergeants with numbers 12-22 on the promotion list would be passed over for promotion, assuming that there were no black sergeants in this range.

The by-passed white sergeants were understandably upset. They had followed the procedures for promotion set out by the City and had ranked near the top of the promotions list. They considered it grossly unfair for the City to by-pass them. In addition, the black officers who were promoted ahead of the by-passed white officers had ranked lower on the list, and thus, in the minds of the white officers, were less qualified. Feeling that they had been illegally discriminated against, the white sergeants brought this lawsuit. Although the legal issues are varied and complex, the plaintiffs' claim can be simply and accurately summarized—it should be illegal for the City to promote blacks over whites solely because of race, especially when the whites ranked higher on the list and were thus, presumably, better qualified.

Plaintiffs position has facial appeal. On the face of it, racial discrimination against whites should not be tolerated by the law any more than racial discrimination against blacks. Why should lower-ranking blacks get promotions over higher-ranking whites? The City's response to these concerns raised by plaintiffs also has much appeal: 1) The City has been guilty of extensive past discrimination against blacks; 2) black officers at all ranks are desperately needed in a predominantly black city because of the need for citizen-police cooperation and related reasons; and 3) the black officers promoted were as qualified as the white officers passed over by them because the ranking on the promotional list was essentially meaningless.

These are the issues presented in this lengthy litigation. They are not easy to resolve and there is no result which can satisfy both sides. The parties and the people of the City deserve a full explanation of this Court's views. Because of the significant and difficult nature of this case, this Court shall try to write as clear and concise an opinion as possible; understandable by lawyer and layman alike. The Court sets forth hereinbelow its findings of fact and conclusions of law, in accordance with Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

A. Statement of the Case

This consolidated action challenges the method of promotions of black male police officers from the rank of sergeant to the rank of lieutenant within the Detroit Police Department (Department) made pursuant to a voluntary affirmative action program which the governing body of the Department, the Board of Police Commissioners, promulgated in July, 1974. Named as defendants in this lawsuit are the City of Detroit; Coleman A. Young, Mayor of the City of Detroit; the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners and its individual members; and Philip G. Tannian, Chief of Police3 (City defendants).

Case Number 5-71937 was commenced in this Court on October 7, 1975, by Kenneth A. Baker and six other...

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