Chicago inspector general questions bias in police hiring: 37% of applicants Black, 18% hired
Joseph Ferguson says Chicago police officials need to ‘assess whether the tests and standards at each stage validly select for job-relevant skills and abilities.’
White applicants to the Chicago Police Department are far more likely to get hired than African Americans, raising questions about whether its employment process is equitable, City Hall’s inspector general said in a report Thursday.
“It is the disproportionately high attrition of Black candidates throughout the hiring process, not a lack of applicants, that is most responsible for the low number of Black police officers ultimately hired,” according to the report from Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office.
The report acknowledged the balancing act in police hiring: ensuring applicants are qualified while reflecting the racial diversity of the city.
But it said the Chicago Police Department needs to reevaluate its hiring practices for bias and “assess whether the tests and standards at each stage validly select for job-relevant skills and abilities.”
The inspector general examined the results of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2016-2018 police “hiring surge” and found that Black candidates represented 37% of the applicants but only 18% of those invited to the police academy.
They were more likely to fail the written exam, background check and psychological evaluation than applicants of other races.
Women submitted fewer applications than men — 37% of the total — and represented 27% of those invited to the academy.
In response to the inspector general’s findings, police officials said they’ve changed policies to allow applicants to re-take the fitness test if they fail it. City officials said they intend to ask aldermen to help identify prospective applicants in their wards for the police department.
The inspector general pointed to a study suggesting a greater number of minority cops could increase public trust of the police department. That study found Black and Hispanic officers in Chicago make fewer stops and arrests and use less force than white cops.
The police department has 12,255 sworn officers. About 5,760 are white, 3,512 Hispanic, 2,481 Black, 409 Asian, 29 Native American and 25 of mixed races, according to the inspector general.
He found that more than half of the department’s Black officers are 45 or older — at a time when retirements have accelerated.
The southwest and northwest corners of Chicago — mostly white neighborhoods where generations of cops live — continue to produce the largest numbers of people entering the police academy, the inspector general noted.