Chicago aldermen on Monday reluctantly signed off on a $3.1 million settlement that would hire eight immigrants as Chicago Police officers and compensate 47 immigrants who were denied that chance because of a discriminatory rule that required applicants to have lived in the United States for the previous 10 years.
“I’m just bothered by this. All of the problems we have in this city getting jobs for people and now, we have to” set aside police jobs for immigrants, said Ald. Nick Sposato (38th), a former Chicago firefighter.
“Is it five years now and then, it’s OK? Is it one year? Can a foreigner apply for a police or fire job that doesn’t even live here and then, come on in and take the test? If they don’t speak English, is that OK? . . . I’m just so troubled by this. . . . I thought we were fair. You have to have a history of being here 10 years. Now, the DOJ and EEOC are stepping in. We need jobs for people who have a history being here in this city and this country.”
First Assistant Corporation Counsel Jane Elinor Notz noted that the rule mandating that all police hopefuls have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years before becoming Chicago Police officers was imposed to “ensure that applicants had sufficient contacts in the United States for CPD to conduct an adequate background check.”
In 2011, the continuous residency rule was cut in half as part of an overhaul of the hiring standards, she said.
“There’s really no record about why that decision was made. However, when the department did move to the five-year standard and it served its legitimate business needs, we really had no defense to this lawsuit,” she said.
Sposato was not appeased.
“Maybe sometimes we should stand up to the EEOC or DOJ. I don’t think we did anything wrong. I mean — we’re talking about a police officer. We need a history. We need to know what these people are like,” he said.
Finance Committee Chairman Edward Burke (14th) asked Notz whether police hopefuls could be required to be U.S. citizens, especially since Chicago already has a controversial residency rule that requires city employees to live in the city.
“That would be actually inconsistent with our municipal code because our municipal code prohibits discrimination in the offering of opportunities based upon citizenship,” Notz said.
Burke countered, “Would it not just be common sense that a person who is a peace officer in the city of Chicago should be a citizen? Is it your advice now that we should amend the municipal code? If we have the sense that people who are going to be police officers ought to be citizens of the United States and citizens of Illinois, is that illegal.”
Notz replied that at least one other jurisdiction — she believes it is New York — does require that their police officer applicants are citizens. She said she would want to do more research before determining whether the city code in Chicago could be changed to follow New York’s lead.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice, now conducting a civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department, filed a lawsuit against the city that stems from unrelated hiring abuses that occurred as long as a decade ago.
It was a procedural matter because a tentative settlement has been reached.
It identified Masood Khan, who was born in India, and Glenford Flowers, who was born in Belize, as victims of the discriminatory hiring policy.
Both men took and passed the 2006 police exam. Both saw their applications rejected because they had lived in the United States for less than 10 straight years. Both filed charges of discrimination that were upheld by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and referred to the Justice Department.
The lawsuit sought back pay, interest on the “amount of lost wages and benefits” and compensatory damages for the “pain, suffering and medical expenses” caused by the city’s discriminatory hiring practice.
On Monday, the City Council’s Finance Committee approved the settlement.
It calls for the city to hire up to eight qualified applicants from the discriminated class of 47 immigrants, provided there are eight who meet the Chicago Police Department’s hiring criteria except for the maximum age requirement.
All eight hired class members would be eligible to receive retroactive retirement benefits. If the hiring is completed by Oct. 3 and those eight officers fully fund the employee contribution, the city’s share would be just over $1 million. Back pay and damages is expected to top $2 million.
In addition, the city will pay the two original plaintiffs $10,000 each.
Aldermen also agreed to pay $220,000 to a woman who sued the city and five police officers alleging that she was improperly detained and that a female officer unlawfully strip-searched her in July 2011.
And the Finance Committee approved a $200,000 settlement to a man who claimed he was unlawfully stopped by police while walking down the street in 2006 and that police officers proceeded to conduct an unlawful search of his family home while detaining the man and three members of his family.
The strip-search settlement prompted Burke to raise the possibility of yet another legal change — that approval of a police supervisor be required before an officer conducts an “invasive search.”