Chicago Police Department Hiring More Cops: Is the Plan Realistic?
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37-year old Dennis Hecker grew up in Englewood, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods on Chicago’s south side. “Being an inner city kid and you know growing up in Englewood you see a lot of things that you would like to change” Hecker says.
The desire to change Englewood, and other violent neighborhoods, motivated Hecker to leave his 15-year career in telecommunications to join the Chicago Police Department. He is currently one of hundreds of recruits training at the police academy, and one of a thousand new officers the Chicago Police Department plans to hire during the next two years.
In addition to getting more police on the streets, the City is looking to attract more minority candidates such as Hecker to diversify its police force. According to a Police Accountability Task Force report, in 2014, the Chicago Police Department was 52 percent white, 23 pecent black, and 22 percent Hispanic. To close the racial gap, last fall the City announced its “Be the Change” campaign, which brings more recruiting events to primarily African American and Latino communities.
“Our diversity as a city is a strength and having a diverse workforce in the police department is a strength,” -Mayor Emanuel
The City launched the aggressive recruitment efforts last year after 762 people were killed and 4,300 were shot. It was the most violent year since the 1990's. City officials hope hiring more minority officers will help improve relationships in communities where there is vast distrust of the Chicago Police Department.
Kevin Brooks, pastor of Greater Saint John African Methodist Church in Englewood, supports the initiative. “This campaign will be successful because it engages black and brown men and women to take ownership back into their community," Pastor Brooks says. "It gives them an opportunity to police their own families, their own neighborhoods, because they know the deals of the community and they know the challenges of the community,” he says.
One key goal is that Chicago Police better reflect the racial makeup of the neighborhoods they patrol. Last April, Mayor Emmanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force released a scathing report claiming that the CPD had little regard for the lives of minorities. That finding, along with a Department of Justice investigation, have increased the pressure to diversify the police force.
But some City officials have questioned whether adding a thousand officers in two years will be feasible. Applicants have to go through rigorous written, physical, and psychological exams in addition to six months of academy and field training. Only one-in-100 successfully complete the process.
Bill Ruthhart, City Hall Reporter for Chicago Tribune, says some aldermen consider Mayor Emanuel’s plan too ambitious.
"We’re down 1,000 officers since 2011, so even if you add this thousand you’re really just back to where we were five years ago.” -Bill Ruthhart, Chicago Tribune
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