PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The city of Pittsburgh has a smaller percentage of black police officers since the American Civil Liberties Union sued two years ago alleging hiring discrimination.

Thirteen percent of city officers are black, down from 17 percent when the lawsuit was filed in 2012, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

The newspaper’s report comes as the sides are scheduled to meet Thursday with a federal magistrate who is mediating the lawsuit.

Census figures show about 26 percent of the city is black. The ACLU contends screening practices disproportionately eliminate black candidates.

The city has said in court papers that the lead plaintiff had three warrants for failing to respond to citations, spotty work records and a “poor” driving record when he was passed over for a police job, and that claims by four other plaintiffs were “extremely weak.”

Still, a spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto said the city is trying to improve its recruitment of black officers.

“The mayor has been working since the first days of his administration on ways to increase diversity within public safety,” spokesman Tim McNulty said.

Todd Siegel, director of the city’s Personnel and Civil Service Commission wouldn’t comment for the newspaper’s story, but he did provide a list of ways the city might attract more black police candidates. Among other things being considered is an “ambassador/mentor” program to help black recruits navigate the hiring process and recruiting in city neighborhoods with more black residents.

McNulty said the Peduto administration also wants to form an advisory board to develop ways to increase minority hiring.

Witold “Vic” Walczak, the ACLU’s legal director in Pennsylvania, contends about 20 percent of police applicants are black, but most wind up near the bottom of the hiring eligibility list.

“Any efforts to attract a larger pool of candidates would be a good thing, but that doesn’t address the issue of whether the selection process is discriminatory, as we’ve alleged,” Walczak said.

The city has dealt with efforts to create court-ordered minority hiring in the past. A federal consent decree forced the city to hire one white woman and one black male and female for every white male officer hired from 1975 to 1991.


Information from: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, http://pghtrib.com