CPD Supt. Johnson on minority hiring push: happy with effort, not results

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Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson | Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said Monday said his department is still working toward a police force that roughly mirrors the demographics of the city, which is divided roughly in thirds among blacks, whites and Hispanics.

“I’m happy with the efforts,” Johnson said after welcoming new recruits to the police academy, 1300 W. Jackson. “I’m not happy with the particular outcomes … So we just keep chipping at that rock and promoting minority applications.”

RELATED: Chicago has fewer beat cops despite police hiring surge, records show, May 6

As of May 7, the racial makeup of the police department’s 12,868 cops of all ranks, as well as the department’s 782 civilian staff members, was: 23 percent black; 47 percent white; 25 percent Hispanic; and 3 percent Asian. The gender breakdown was 75 percent male, 25 percent female, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

The police department began a highly publicized effort to diversify its ranks and rebuild public trust after the court-ordered release of police dashcam video that showed a white cop, Officer Jason Van Dyke, killing a 17-year-old African-American, Laquan McDonald, shooting him 16 times.

A Chicago Sun-Times analysis in January found that in the four years prior to the release of the McDonald video in November 2015, African-Americans accounted for 12 percent of the 1,679 applicants hired as Chicago cops, and whites accounted for half of all hires in that period.

That was the case even though the percentages of blacks and whites applying to the police department were far closer, with African-Americans accounting for about 28 percent of the applicant pool and whites about 32 percent.

In 2016 and 2017, more than 54,000 people signed up to take the hiring exam. African-American candidates made up 35 percent of the entire pool, Hispanics 32 percent and white applicants 20 percent.

In that period, the department hired 1,371 officers. Fourteen percent were black, 36 percent Hispanic and 41 percent white.

In recent months, efforts have focused on getting potential recruits who signed up for the police exam to take the second step: actually showing up.

“People sign up, they don’t always come,” Guglielmi said. Johnson even took part in a phone bank to call recruits to remind them to show up for a test earlier this month.

On Monday, Johnson also addressed racial dynamics in terms of gun violence arrests.

“If they happen to be black and brown, then so be it,” he said. “You know, I don’t look at the color of the individual. I just look at the person that’s pulling the trigger. If you decide to pull that trigger, then you should be held accountable.”

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