City Colleges, DeVry University to train veteran police officers

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Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to open auxiliary police training facilities — and build a new academy shared by police and fire — to maintain a continuous pipeline of candidates needed to bolster the police force by 970 officers over the next two years.

Now, the mayor is delivering on that promise by forging a partnership with the City Colleges of Chicago and DeVry University.

Shifting the training of veteran officers and candidates for promotion to the rank of field training officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain to the seven City Colleges and DeVry will free up the cramped and antiquated police academy at 1300 W. Jackson to become a factory for new police recruits.

The police academy that Emanuel hopes to someday replace desperately needs the space if it hopes to follow through on the ambitious hiring schedule outlined by top mayoral aides.

It calls for having two new classes enter the police academy by the end of 2016. One will start at the end of this month, the other in December.

That would be followed by classes of 100 recruits-per-month beginning in January and continuing for 11 of the 12 months next year.

The mayor’s plan also calls for: Filling all vacancies in the ranks of field training officer in January and February, then proceeding to fill the 92 new FTO positions; hiring enough detectives to fill existing vacancies by March, followed by a second class of 100 new detectives by April; filling lieutenant vacancies by March; establishing a June 2017 deadline to fill vacancies in the all-important rank of sergeant; and adding 37 new sergeants and filling any additional openings created by promotions to the rank of lieutenant filled by June.

The City Colleges and DeVry locations are needed to make certain that the Police Department doesn’t miss a beat in the all-important training of veteran officers that’s desperately needed to stay one step ahead of a federal civil rights investigation triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

It includes training veteran officers in de-escalation tactics and a new use-of-force policy and certifying 30 percent of the all sworn officers in crisis intervention training to serve people with mental health issues. The course in “force mitigation skills and de-escalation tactics” requires 16 hours of training.

The temporary training facilities, first disclosed by the Chicago Sun-Times, also woold be used for “promotional training above the rank of police officer.”

“Professional development and advanced training for our police officers are critical to providing the highest level of public safety service,” Police Supt. Eddie Johnson was quoted as saying in a press release. “This partnership will allow CPD to continue to improve the quality and delivery of instruction for in-service training while creating bandwidth for CPD to train the next generation of officers [who] will join the department in the coming year.”

Emanuel added that “quality training for new recruits, detectives, supervisors and command staff alike is critical to the success” of his two-year police hiring surge.

The Sun-Times reported earlier this month that, lured by the expiring offer of free health insurance at age 55, 274 Chicago Police officers have declared their intention to retire by June 30, making it more difficult for Emanuel to deliver on his two-year promise.

That’s at least part of the reason why 274 Chicago Police officers who are either 55 and older or approaching their 55th birthday notified the Chicago Police Department by an Oct. 1 deadline of their intention to retire next year.

Coupled with the 495 vacancies across all ranks, that means Emanuel will begin the job of delivering on his promised police hiring surge 769 officers in the hole.

Budget Director Alex Holt has assured aldermen that she has taken all of those numbers into account in a budget that includes: $40 million for salary and benefits for the 545 new sworn positions; $8 million for the “pre-employment” process that includes background checks and drug testing; $2 million for equipment and supplies; $3.2 million for curriculum development and training.

The mayor’s office said it has “begun identifying locations” for a new, state-of-the-art public safety academy. Emanuel hopes to complete construction in 2018. He has not yet identified a funding source for the project.

The training partnership with City Colleges and DeVry was announced on the eve of Johnson’s testimony at City Council budget hearings.

It’s an appearance that always attracts a majority of aldermen — even those who rarely attend budget hearings.

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