Why Would You Deny Someone a Job Because of a High IQ?
I wanted to be a cop. But when I took the test, they found out my IQ was too high!
It sounds like a bad joke. But this actually happened to a Connecticut man when he took the test a number of years, and it’s possible it’s happening at law enforcement departments across the country.
Robert Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate, scored a 33 on an intelligence test he took as part of the application process to become a police officer in the town of New London, Connecticut. The score meant Jordan had an IQ of 125.
The average score for police officers was a 21-22, or an IQ of 104. New London would only interview candidates who scored between 20 and 27.
I first heard about this story a year ago. I was in New York for work and a person I worked with—a very intelligent, if eccentric person—expressed his surprise that I had never heard the story. I politely nodded as he told the story, assuming he had gotten something wrong.
Who would systematically deny jobs to people who test well, I wondered?
I did some Googling on the return flight. Sure enough, he was correct.
Weeding out smarter people might not be the craziest part of the story, however. What might be crazier is that Jordan sued and lost in federal court.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals accepted the argument that discrimination did not take place because the same standards were applied to everyone who took the test. (All equally administered police tests are not created equal, it seems.)
Legality aside, the larger question looms. Why would you want less intelligent people as officers? What did New London police find threatening about people who could think and reason at higher levels?
The department’s official answer was that there was concern that smarter officers might get bored and leave the force to pursue other opportunities.
Or is something else at work? Are weaker minds perhaps more compliant? Do they take orders better and ask fewer questions?
It’s worth pointing out that Jordan’s not a genius. The 33 score he achieved means he has an IQ of 125. That’s considered a “superior” score but it’s a far cry from being a Mensa candidate. And he scored a full six points above the mark at which officers were disqualified (27).
If the practice is widespread, could this be a problem? Would it not serve the public interest to have some highly intelligent officers in the department?