Chicago will hold yet another police exam on May 5 — the fifth in seven years under Mayor Rahm Emanuel — as it maintains a continuous pipeline of candidates to keep pace with retirements and honor the mayor’s promise to add 970 officers over two years.
Last year, the Chicago Police Department held two entry-level exams for the first time in recent memory.
The April exam attracted 8,700 applicants. At the second, in December, more than 14,000 candidates — 76 percent of them minorities, 35 percent women — packed into McCormick Place.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson announced the new exam — with online registration Feb. 1-through-28- — as he joined Emanuel in presiding over a Navy Pier graduation ceremony for 84 patrol officers, 18 lieutenants, 72 sergeants and 11 field training officers.
“Later this week, we will open up the application period for another police entry exam to take place this coming May,” Johnson told the graduates.
“There’s a reason … we use the motto, ‘Be the Change.’ It’s because all of you — doing your job professionally, safely, respectfully and in accordance with your training — will embody the change we’re looking for. You will seal this period in CPD’s history where the people we serve … stand up to those who inflict harm … and exchange the sounds of gunfire with the sounds of children playing and residents taking their streets back.”
Emanuel credited Johnson with implementing a host of reforms — including body cameras, Tasers, intensified training and a new use-of-force policy — that have “taken the police department from being reactive to being pro-active and professional.”
“Today, we ask more of you. Therefore, we have to help you more — with the training, the technology and the technique,” the mayor said.
“But there will be a moment in time when all of that training, all of that effort will come to fruition. And you will remember everything that, not only that we helped you with and nurture, but also the leadership we’re providing to make sure that you have the best professional, most proactive police department that the people of Chicago see as their own.”
CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi acknowledged that the conveyor belt of police exams in recent years has left the department “two or three lists behind.”
Why hold yet another exam at a cost of $2.3 million for test development, administration, advertising and recruitment?
“We want to make sure the lists are fresh,” Guglielmi said. “We always want to constantly recruit and keep a continuous pipeline of candidates. That’s healthy for any organization.”
Molly Poppe, a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Budget and Management, said the plan to hold “continuous exams” is “consistent with how many other large city police departments manage their hiring.”
Last fall, Inspector General Joe Ferguson released a blistering audit that concluded Chicago wastes millions on police overtime because of an “unchecked culture of abuse” and “inefficient management” that failed to control costs, eliminate fraud or prevent officer fatigue.
One month later, aldermen beefed during City Council budget hearings that police overtime was still “out of control” and Deputy Supt. Barbara West confirmed it.
She reported the department had already wracked up $120 million in overtime, and that the year-end tally was expected to hit $170 million.
West said she hoped to rein it in by holding district commanders responsible for tracking overtime, making overtime spending a key criteria at weekly Compstat meetings and by more closely monitoring court appearances by police officers.
Despite that record overtime spending, Poppe said Emanuel is on pace to deliver on his two-year promise to bolster the police force by 970 officers over and above attrition.
Even after 415 police retirements last year, the Chicago Police Department has 720 more officers than it did on Jan. 1, 2017, shortly after Emanuel embarked on the two-year hiring spree, she said.