Should police officers have college experience?

September 29, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The Chicago Police Department is down about 2,000 officers due to hiring slowdowns. The Daley administration just OK'd the exams and the city is putting out a request for a vendor to purchase the exam from a developer. Responses from vendors are due by October 8.

Thousands of people are expected to apply to take the exam, which, for the last 13 years, has required applicants have at least two years of college education. However, Alderman Anthony Beale, the new chairman of the Chicago City Council's Police and Fire Committee, said it may be time to scrap that college requirement to give minorities more of an opportunity to join the force.

"When the two-year requirement was put in place and we heard from 30,000 applicants down to 3,000 applicants. It excludes a lot of people from wanting to become a police officer," said Ad. Beale.

Ald. Beale said the college requirement encourage minorities who can't afford college to go into the trades or military because the CPD isn't an option.

Critics say eliminating the college requirement lowers the bar for Chicago police officer.

"Is going a wrong way. Stop using race as an excuse to lower the bar," said Roosevelt University professor Paul Green, who taught at the police academy for 4 years.

Because an officer is often a citizen's first and sometimes only contact with government, Green says it is vital that a cop has more than just street smarts.

"You don't want people there who do not have the ability to communicate, to write, to testify," said Green.

The Fraternal Order of Police agrees with Green.

"We're a little disappointed that the mayor's choice for chairman of the police and fire committee's first action is to lower the standards to become a Chicago police officer," said Bill Dougherty, Fraternal Order of Police.

Alderman Beale said tossing out the college requirement levels the playing field.

"We are not trying to lower the standards we are trying to open opportunities for more people to become police officers," said Ald. Beale.

ABC7 spoke with several Chicago police officers who did not want to go on camera. Some support Ald. Beale's argument that college courses don't make one a better officer, but others say tossing out the college requirement dumbs down the department.

When Terry Hillard was superintendent of the CPD, he spoke about making the college requirement 4 years-- but that idea fell flat quickly.

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