Calling all applicants: CPD steps up diversity recruitment efforts

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The Chicago Police Department is working to encourage African-Americans to join the force. (WLS)

Despite a concerted effort by the city to diversify the Chicago Police Department, a new hiring push was still falling short Friday in its goal to encourage more African Americans to join the force.

In response, the department conducted a phone bank from police headquarters to tackle one of the biggest obstacles - getting people to show up for the exam.

"There's nothing wrong," said Barbara West, Chief of Operational Services said to an applicant she called Friday afternoon, "I just wanted to call you to remind you and thank you for signing up for the examination tomorrow."

Chicago police said they reached out to 8,700 people who applied to take the latest police entrance exam.

The diversification effort is part of an effort kicked off by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2017 to diversify the racial and ethnic makeup of the police force to more closely resemble the city as a whole.

Despite these efforts,44% of African Americans who applied to take the exam didn't show up when the department held its last exam in December, West said.

Currently, although 30 percent of Chicago's population is African American, only 14 percent of officers hired by the CPD over the last year and a half were African American, according to department records.

"A lot of things contribute to that, one there is that underground, underlying fear that people don't want to be a part of the police, but I think there are a lot of African-Americans who do want to be a part of the police, but the process is kind of daunting," said Sixth Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer.

CPD officials said the department has changed the recruitment process to address issues that have been identified as hurdles for minority recruitment.

"Many people were afraid to actually take the test, so we began to give prep sessions in terms of the examination. Individuals were afraid to actually do the first power examination, we begin to do prep sessions in terms of getting people in shape," West said.

There is also now an appeals process for those who don't meet the standards on the psychological test, which critics have called too subjective. Department officials dispute that claim.

The head of the Police Board says the police recruitment effort needs to make additional changes if it's going to reach its goals.

"We see that that the African-American population is moving out of the city, a lot of it is in the south and west suburbs, so we've got to make sure that we are expanding our net to recruit there as well," said Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Police Board Chairman.

The department is holding two exam sessions on Saturday at McCormick place.
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