Chicago police to boost ranks by rehiring former officers, poaching cops outside the city

The age-restricted programs announced Friday aim to help fill about 2,000 vacancies in the department.

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Chicago Graduates New Class Of Police Officers

New officers are sworn in at a Chicago Police Department promotion and graduation ceremony on Oct. 20, 2021.

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With the Chicago Police Department facing a wave of retirements and struggling to retain and recruit talent, the interim top cop on Friday announced new programs to rehire officers who have left the force and to poach others from outside the city.

During the tenure of former police Supt. David Brown, officers’ days off were canceled to address deep staffing issues and a spike in violent crime. While the controversial policy was rolled back, police staffing has remained at the center of the mayoral race as the department struggles to fill roughly 2,000 vacancies.

The program aimed at bringing back former Chicago cops only applies to those who are under the age of 50 and who left more than three years ago, according to a department statement.

Former police officials will all be hired as officers, meaning a former chief would effectively be bumped down to the department’s lowest rank.

The other program creates a system for cops from outside Chicago to join the force “while receiving credit for their law enforcement experience,” the department said. Officers who join the force under the so-called lateral hire program must be under 40.

“These are great opportunities for sworn officers to join or rejoin the Chicago Police Department,” interim Chicago Police Supt. Eric Carter said.

The former police officers who return will be required to pass the normal preemployment hiring steps and an individualized training plan. The lateral hires must also complete those steps, along with a yearlong probationary period.

Experts say hiring is vital to get the city out from under a federal consent decree mandating sweeping reforms. But this week, former interim Supt. Charlie Beck told the Sun-Times the department really needs to bring in new blood and use its existing resources better.

“I didn’t really see Chicago PD as being understaffed,” said Beck, who was replaced by Brown in April 2020. “I just saw cops being underutilized.”

Hiring officers has, nevertheless, become a charged issue in the mayoral campaign.

Paul Vallas has vowed to fill 1,700 police vacancies, in part by doubling the current training capacity at the police academy. Vallas has also promised to lure back retired officers by offering to restore their pensions without penalty.

“I will significantly slow the exodus,” Vallas told the editorial board at Crain’s Chicago Business Thursday.

Vallas’ opponent, Brandon Johnson, has scoffed at his plan, claiming that bringing back retirees has not worked in any major city in the country. Johnson has said he wants to cut the police budget by $150 million, in part by reducing the number of supervisors.

Johnson said he wants to invest in root causes of crime and promote 200 new detectives.

“We’re not administering the consent decree, and we’re not solving violence in the city of Chicago,” he said during a candidate forum held by NBC5 Chicago earlier this month.

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