Chicago will hire a $90,000-a-year “chief diversity officer” to attract a workforce that better reflects the city’s population, aldermen were told Wednesday, after learning that Hispanics have gotten short-shrift in the 1,256 policymaking jobs exempt from the Shakman decree.
On the hot seat at City Council budget hearings, Human Resources Commissioner Soo Choi provided the racial breakdown of top jobs in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, which infuriated Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd).
Of the 1,256 “at will” jobs exempt from the federal ban on political hiring and firing, 46.2 percent are filled by whites; 26.5 percent are held by blacks; and 17.4 percent are filled by Hispanics.
Munoz was disgusted with those figures at a time when Hispanics are the city’s fastest-growing group.
He noted that Shakman-exempt jobs are not only directly controlled by the mayor, they are the most influential positions in city government.
Although the city is out from under the Shakman decree and the costly constraints of a federal hiring monitor, policymakers who can be fired at will are still known as “Shakman-exempt.”
“The bottom line is that, in the positions that this administration controls, Latinos are still woefully underrepresented in a city where we are 32 percent of the population,” Munoz said.
“The mayor should hire more Latinos within his administration in these policymaking jobs so he can have the benefit of their knowledge of this city’s Latino neighborhoods and issues that come up every day,” he said. “They’re bringing in a chief diversity officer when the commissioner of human relations should be the chief diversity officer. If you don’t change the culture of all of these 43 departments the city has, it doesn’t matter that you have one person filing reports.”
Choi openly acknowledged that the Emanuel administration needs to do a better job of attracting minorities. Which is why the city is hiring a chief diversity officer and a $62,448-a-year analyst.
“While we try our best to improve our recruitment strategies, when it’s not someone’s full-time job and other more pressing matters, such as hiring a position comes into play, that tends to take a back seat and that’s just unfortunate,” she said.
“Rather than try and spread that responsibility out where it’s likely to not get addressed as directly, what we need is someone who’s full-time job is to focus on this exact question,” Choi said. “How are we going to better recruit more diverse applicant pools for not just our entry level, but at every level?”
Last year, an unprecedented outreach campaign to diversify the Chicago Police Department attracted 14,200 applicants for an April 16 police exam. Seventy-one percent of those candidates were minorities. That was a 13 percent improvement from the previous outreach campaign.
Hispanics make up 41.8 percent of that list, while blacks make up 23 percent of those 8,941 candidates.
But Munoz is concerned that the Chicago Police Department will remain disproportionately white — and crime-fighting will suffer because of it — unless changes are made to the independently administered background checks and psychological exams.
“The psychological test has been a constant challenge. They just disqualify people and don’t give you a reason,” Munoz said.
Last year, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) branded the psychological exam and background checks “tools used to weed out and disqualify minorities and keep out people of color.”
Beale was shot down by then-police Supt. Garry McCarthy, who was subsequently fired for becoming what Emanuel called a “distraction” in the unrelenting fallout from the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
“McCarthy is no longer here,” Munoz said Wednesday. “We want them to make sure these tests do not have adverse impact on minorities.”
Emanuel has disclosed plans to hold another police exam in April to provide a continuous pipeline of officers needed to deliver on his promise to hire 970 additional police officers over the next two years.
On Wednesday, the city issued a request for proposals for consulting companies interested in presiding over the minority recruitment drive for that police exam, the city’s third in four years.