03 January 2012


I just discovered a news item from several months ago, reporting that an applicant for the New London, Ct, police force was denied employment because he had scored too high on an intelligence test.  His exam score was 33, indicating an IQ of 125.  "But New London police interviewed only candidates who scored between 20 and 27, on the theory that those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training .... The average national score for police officers is 21 to 22, the equivalent of an IQ of 104, or just a little above average."

The applicant sued the city for discrimination, "alleging his civil rights were violated because he was denied equal protection under the law."  Both the U.S. District Court and the 2nd Circuit Appeals court denied his claim, stating in part that the city did not discriminate because "the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test."  WHAT?  So if I've advertised for a personal assistant, and I reject any applicant who isn't a sexy, gorgeous young woman, that's okay because I've applied the same standards to all applicants, regardless of their ability?  How is that not discrimination?

The courts further said that the city's hiring policy "might be unwise but was a rational way to reduce job turnover."  I dispute that claim.  There's nothing rational about refusing to hire a qualified and motivated applicant, based solely on the flimsy pretext of what might happen in the future.  I suspect not only discrimination based on intelligence, but discrimination based on age (the applicant was a 49-year-old college graduate).  The problem is, how do you document and prove such discrimination?  You'd have to have access to the city's records, and carefully cross-reference hiring and retention by age, gender, IQ, race, nationality, religion, and prior experience, just to arrive at a scientific sampling of what's really going on.  And the city is hardly likely to release those records without a court order.  And the courts do not seem disposed to stir the waters of the city's hiring practices.

Their policy is entirely counter-intuitive.  I'd rather have the most intelligent police officers protecting me, not merely average ones.  There's another issue, one which some police departments share with the military.  I have no scholarly evidence, but my experience and intuition tell me that those of average or lower intelligence are more likely to follow orders without question.  It's all about command and control ~ and deniability.  It's one thing to have individual hiring authorities follow discriminatory and regressive policies.  It's quite another thing, and utterly confounding, for those policies to be upheld in federal court.  I wish this had been pursued to the U.S. Supreme Court, because the attendant publicity might have shed a different light on the validity of New London's policies.  Alas, the applicant dropped the lawsuit, and now works as a prison guard ~ a position where the average IQ is even lower than among police officers.  

My sister is a police officer in San Francisco.  I'm certain that her intelligence is well above average, and she's been a loyal and effective employee for many years.  But then, San Francisco is apparently more enlightened in many ways than certain other cities.

One last note ~ the news item mentioned that the national average IQ for police officers is 104, meaning that half have IQs of 104 or higher, and half have IQs of 104 or lower (see chart above, click to enlarge).  So on the one hand there have to be a number of very bright cops out there, but on the other hand, there also must be a number who are struggling to keep up.  Not an encouraging thought.  Being a police officer is a demanding and sometimes dangerous job, calling for a wide range of skill sets, continuous retraining, and mature judgment.  Our police departments should be staffed by the best and brightest, not by the merely average.


  1. Hi my friend! I want to say that this post is awesome, great written and include almost all important infos. I'd like to look extra posts like this .
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  2. Hi Randy ~ Thank you for your kind words. As you know, the topics I post vary widely, from social justice to the sciences, the arts, the environment, and anything which tickles my fancy. I do comment regularly on issues like intelligence, upbringing, and our perceptions of each other and ourselves. A quick browse through the archive (right-side column) should provide what you're looking for. Have a great day !