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Addressing the Chicago Police Department Shortage

By David A. Lynch
On October 26, 2010

The Chicago Police Department currently faces a 2,300 officer shortage daily. Based on FBI crime statistics, the website stated that two of the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in the country hail from the Windy City. Chicago Police Department officers have been shot and killed both on and off duty throughout the year. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the public to keep faith in the police department.

Currently, in order to be hired as an officer for the Chicago Police Department, applicants must be between the ages of 21 and 40, and have completed 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university or served 4 years of service on active duty in the United States Armed Forces.  Alderman Anthony Beale, the Chairman of the City Council Police Committee, wants the city to eliminate the current education requirement. Yes, he is serious. Beale, believes that by removing the education requirement, it creates a "level playing field" for minority candidates, as a college education is inaccessible for minorities. As Beale sees it, minorities either attend trade schools or join the military.

Perhaps Beale is not familiar with the provision that military service can be used in the place of collegiate credits. Perhaps he does not believe that universities, such as NEIU or one of the several Chicago City colleges or the community colleges of the outlying suburbs, are accessible. What is clear, is that Beale believes that individuals who cannot dedicate themselves to a modest education should be entrusted with public safety and empowered to enforce laws while in possession with firearms. Alderman Beale wants the city of Chicago to take a giant step backwards in required education by removing this requirement, while suburban police departments have moved forward and require at least a bachelor degree. No, thank you, Alderman Beale, please leave that education requirement in place.

One of the larger and looming problems is that the Chicago Police Department has not offered a written exam since November 2006, and those applicants are now exhausted. Currently there are companies bidding to administer the next written exam and the city is looking at ways to streamline the hiring process. Yes, it really took almost four years for the city to hire qualified applicants while facing a massive shortage that only gets worse with more retirements. A solution would be to offer the exam more often than every four years, but surely more intelligent people than me have thought of this. Part of the issue is the budget, but city planners are currently mortgaging our safety by not ensuring there are officers on the street.

Mayor Daley announced that the city will hire up to 200 new officers in 2011 to help combat the shortage, but that is less than 10% of the current shortage and, with anticipated retirements, it does little to address the gap. The shortage of officers makes the streets more dangerous for both the public and the police that patrol them. However, removing the current education requirements is not the answer. The city needs to test more often and, more importantly, train and hire more officers with greater frequency.

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