The Justice Department, over the objections of Indianapolis, filed a motion federal court yesterday to eliminate hiring goals from the affirmative action consent decrees the department had signed with the city's police and fire departments.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department asked Indianapolis and 49 other jurisdictions to join it in asking courts to modify their consent decrees. Indianapolis refused, saying it did not agree with the department's interpretation of a Supreme Court decision last year. In that case, Firefighters Local Union No. 1784 v. Stotts, the department said the court ruled that it was unlawful to give preference in hiring to persons who were not the actual victims of a jurisdiction's discriminatory hiring practices.
Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds, noting that the city did not agree with the department's interpretation of the case, said, "In order to get the matter resolved, we presented the matter to the court."
Reynolds added that the motion "should not be read or understood as any effort on our part to take the jurisdictions to court. We're still interested in discussing the matter . . . , and that effort is ongoing."
The department has filed another motion -- against Buffalo -- seeking to modify a consent decree. In addition, in a different tactic against hiring goals, the department recently filed lawsuits against the District of Columbia and Birmingham alleging that the cities had unconstitutionally discriminated against white men by setting hiring goals for women and minorities.
The Indianapolis consent decrees resulted from lawsuits the department filed during the Carter administration, charging job bias in its police and fire departments.
One decree, signed in 1978, required the city to fill at least 25 percent of its police and firefighter training classes with qualified black applicants. The other, signed in 1979, required the city to appoint qualified women to at least 20 percent of police training classes.
The department's new motion seeks to delete the percentages and require Indianapolis instead to "recruit qualified black and female applicants for the entry-level . . . positions to the full extent of their availability and interest in the relevant labor market."
John Samples, a spokesman for Indianapolis' Republican mayor, William H. Hudnut III, said the city has "enjoyed a lot of success" from the hiring practices outlined in the consent decrees and "we see no reason to change them unless forced to do so."