By Patrick Butler • Inside Publications
This year’s city budget is going to be even more interesting than usual, Ald. Tom Tunney [44th] predicted last week.
And it isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents this time around, he said.
Speaking at an Oct. 18 Lake View Kiwanis Club meeting at Ann Sather’s restaurant, 909 W. Belmont Ave., Tunney said the Police Dept. is having a hard time finding recruits.
|44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney represents much of Lakeview, including Wrigleyville and Boystown | YouTube|
“I know we’re aggressively seeking new officers, but when we had an open house here in Lakeview not long ago, there were only a handful of interested people,” Tunney said. “We’ve even gone outside the city to recruit.”
“It’s just not a good time to recruit police officers” for Chicago. “They’re doing three tests a year, compared to past years when there was a waiting list to get on,” he said.
So why is a job where you can legitimately earn $72,000 a year with full benefits and a pension going begging?
Some veteran officers say “it’s just not the same anymore,” offering a variety of reasons why.
The dynamics underpinning the shortages vary, but there are national trends making it harder for police forces to attract applicants. The first is a strong economy. When plenty of jobs are available, people are usually less motivated to enter dangerous professions.
Tunney noted the recent Justice Dept. investigation and overall police moral issues as the reason why so few may want to join the CPD these days. Part of the problem may also be that more senior patrol officers understandably often get the lion’s share of overtime, Tunney said.
And he predicted that overtime would add up to $200 million this year.
“We even have a problem recruiting enough detectives,” traditionally considered a plum career opportunity, he said, adding that it may be that with so many officers reaching retirement age, it’s hard to put enough replacements through training to fill those vacancies.
Asked if Chicago ever considered creating a police reserve program similar to those used in many cities around the U.S. and parts of Europe, Tunney said that to his knowledge, the idea has never been discussed.
He added, however, that any such program would undoubtedly have to be in sync with the police contract, which is up for renewal this year.
But while applications to join the CPD fell by 15% since February, the last time the department accepted applications, there were still more than 14,000 applications received this time around, police said.
And the pool of applicants who will take the exam in December is the most diverse ever, with 35% women and 71% nonwhite, officials said.
Applicants must be at least 20 years old. At the time of hire, recruits must reside in Chicago, have a valid state of Illinois driver’s license, have 60 semester hours of college credit or 36 months of continuous active duty service; or one year continuous active service with 30 semester hours college credit. The exam will be administered the weekend of Dec. 16.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pledged to expand the CPD by 970 officers who represent the city’s current ethnic makeup. But that may only be enough to match the attrition of those officers now retiring or leaving the department.