State Watch

Washington State Patrol replaces psychologist amid concerns about racial bias

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An outside contractor will temporarily replace the Washington State Patrol’s longtime staff psychologist to screen potential troopers after repeated concerns were raised including alleged racial bias. 

Daniel Clark, the 27-year staff psychologist, will remain on the agency’s payroll and will work in capacities other than conducting evaluations, according to The Seattle Times

The change comes a few weeks after reports of problems with the agency’s psychological evaluation system, including evidence that applicants of color may have been disproportionately rejected.

As a result of the reports, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and other legislators have called on the state patrol to diversify its force as troopers were 87 percent white and 90 percent male, the Times added.

While Clark’s psychological screenings were just one part of a long hiring process, candidates rejected by Clark were almost never hired, the Times reported.

The new contract with Lynnwood-based Public Safety Psychological Services began on Oct. 26 and will continue through June 2022. Washington State Patrol intends to hire an external auditor to evaluate the psychological screenings, which could take three to six months and further delay long-term decisions, according to the Times. 

The newspaper said Clark has previously defended his screenings and faulted national written tests for any racial imbalances in hiring.

“I treat everybody as an individual and make my recommendations based on an individual assessment,” Clark said, per the Times. “Psychologically, I don’t believe that there is bias.”

A spokesperson for the Washington State Patrol said in a statement to The Hill that the agency was “committed to diversifying our workforce and has been intentional in our efforts to recruit, train and retain qualified individuals that are more reflective of the state and communities we serve.”  

The spokesperson referred to Clark as “one of many important resources in our efforts to field an effective corps of service” and added that the department was “open to review of our efforts and processes.”

Data analyzed by the Times showed that 20 percent of white candidates to the department were rejected over a period of four years. In the same period, 33 percent of Black candidates, 35 percent of Hispanic candidates and 41 percent of Asian candidates were not recommended for jobs.

— Updated at 4:11 p.m.

Tags Jay Inslee racial bias Washington

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