(CNN) - The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore County, Maryland, Police Department, alleging it engaged in "unintended" racial discrimination in its hiring practices over the last six years.
The department made hiring decisions "based on the results of hiring examinations that were not job-related and that disproportionately excluded African American applicants," the DOJ said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.
The Justice Department says it wants a court to order Baltimore County police to use selection processes that comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the federal anti-discrimination law.
Since 2013, the county used at least three different versions of a written exam to screen entry-level police officer and police cadet applicants, according to the complaint.
In that time, African Americans passed at a consistently lower rate than white applicants, and the difference between the two remained statistically significant, the complaint, filed in the US District Court for the District of Maryland, says.
"As a result of its use of these written examinations, Baltimore County has hired fewer African American applicants as BCPD entry-level police officers and police cadets since January 1, 2013 than it would have had it used a non-discriminatory screening device."
The complaint further states the county's practices reflect a "pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment by African American applicants of the rights" protected by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said the police department has stopped using the test.
"We have created two diversity-focused positions in County government -- one for the County at large and one specifically for the Police Department," he said in a statement.
"We will continue to work with Chief (Melissa) Hyatt, Department leadership, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Blue Guardians and other organizations that represent our officers, in order to ensure that our Police Department is diverse, vibrant and reflects the diversity of Baltimore County's communities."
Olszewski said the county was "willing to negotiate" with the Justice Department to resolve the matter.
"Employers must be mindful that an employment selection device, like a test, must be shown to be job-related if it disproportionately excludes members of one of Title VII's protected groups," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in the statement about the lawsuit.
In its complaint, the Justice Department asks the court to order the county to stop using such written examinations to screen applicants in the future, provide relief to any applicants who suffered loss because of the discrimination and adopt other "non-discriminatory measures to correct the present effects" of its policies and practices.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story contained a photo that portrayed officers from a police department not tied to this lawsuit. It has been updated.
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