AVALON, Pa. (KDKA) – A former Avalon policewoman says she wants to spark change and bring more women in uniform. She worked as a part-time police officer in the Avalon borough with dreams of becoming full-time, but her lawsuit says a physical fitness test she calls discriminatory crushed her dreams.
“Whenever I was presented with this case, I was like, ‘I thought this problem was solved in the 90s. I thought we got rid of these barriers to entry for women back in the years. 90, âsaid lawyer Rachel McElroy.
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Terra Johnston worked as a part-time police officer at Avalon for four months before claiming the police department discriminated against her and fired her.
She demanded to get her job back, voicing concerns about gender discrimination, but according to the lawsuit, the police chief called her allegations “insults and ridicule.”
âMy client was treated unfairly. She wanted an opportunity to be a police officer and she didn’t have a reasonable chance. Not only did she not have a fair chance, but they also didn’t follow the regulations, they didn’t follow the guidelines, they didn’t follow the proper standards, âsaid McElroy, the Johnston’s lawyer.
The trial node claims the Avalon Police Department uses “outdated tests” that disproportionately screen out applicants.
According to the lawsuit, Avalon police asked Johnston to take physical tests to move from part-time to full-time. The lawsuit claims she succeeded in everything except the window jump, where the officer climbs through a six-foot-high window unassisted.
McElroy says this window break is obsolete and discriminatory if it unnecessarily eliminates some candidates.
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âPennsylvania has a municipal police officer training board, and that board recommended a test called the COOPER health-based test and it’s like sit-ups and running and push-ups, and that’s the test. which they recommend as an entry test, and so a lot of other law enforcement agencies are using this test, including two of the big guys, including Philly and Pittsburgh, âMcElroy said.
Meghan Schiller of KDKA asked McElroy how she distinguished between discrimination on the basis of sex and the physical fitness required for the job of first responder.
“This is a very good and important question and I think the big problem in cases like this is that you are only required to take this exam when you apply for this job, it is not a requirement. permanent for the police, so if you have an officer who has been in the force for 20 years, they don’t have to climb a 6-foot-high wall every year, âMcElroy said.
The police chief has yet to respond to KDKA’s request for comment, but according to the lawsuit, he claimed the department’s tests did not discriminate against women, calling it an “insult. and ridiculous “.
McElroy hopes his client’s trial will spark at least one conversation.
âShe wants them to stop using the test. That excludes, you know, women and a very important thing, at least for me too, is diversity within the police force, âsaid McElroy.
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McElroy served the lawsuit Tuesday morning. KDKA has contacted the Avalon Borough lawyer but has yet to receive a response and the police chief is currently absent.