Wilson’s plan to fill CPD vacancies: increase pay, eliminate exam, ‘temporarily’ raise retirement age to 67

The businessman also vowed to put armed police officers on CTA trains and buses to lure back riders who have abandoned the transit system in droves.

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Willie Wilson, who is running for mayor of Chicago, shakes hands with attendees after speaking at the Columbus Park Refectory in the Austin neighborhood on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023.

Businessman Willie Wilson, who is running for mayor of Chicago, shakes hands with members of the audience at a community meeting in Columbus Park on Tuesday.

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Mayoral challenger Willie Wilson vowed Tuesday to eliminate the police hiring exam and “temporarily” raise the retirement age for Chicago police officers from 63 to 67 to fill 2,000 police vacancies and flood the city’s 22 depleted police districts with additional officers.

During a luncheon address to the City Club of Chicago, the millionaire businessman unveiled what he called his common sense plan to deliver Chicago from violent crime.

Some of his ideas — dividing Chicago into four separate areas, each with its own home-grown police superintendent — have been heard before. So has Wilson’s proposal to relax policies on vehicular and foot chases that, he said, are too “restrictive,” making officers fearful of pursuing anybody and emboldening criminals who know they won’t be chased.

But Wilson also proposed new ideas — some certain to be controversial.

“We will increase the number of officers in each of the 22 police districts. Currently, there are 2,000 vacant positions for sworn officers. I would do the following to fill these positions: We will eliminate the hiring exam. Reassign administrative personnel to fill duties. Create an auxiliary police unit staffed by retired officers. Rehire officers who have already left the Chicago Police Department … be able to transfer them into certain positions that will protect us,” Wilson said.

“Temporarily, we need to raise the retirement age of police officers from 63 to 67 until we get this problem under control. I will ask them to help us out. Afterward, if they want to go back and retire — well that’s all fine, too.”

Wilson also would raise police salaries; reverse merit promotions that mayoral challenger Paul Vallas has derisively branded the “friends and family plan”; restore police morale by drawing the line between “mistakes and misconduct” to prove to officers that the city “has their backs”; and put armed officers on CTA trains and buses to lure back riders who have abandoned the transit system in droves.

Ridership remains at half of pre-pandemic levels, partly because the system is viewed as unsafe and unreliable. Several mayoral challengers have said the CTA is in danger of going bankrupt when federal stimulus money runs out in 2025.

“I won’t fire a police officer because they made a mistake,” he told the City Club audience.

“I will be a mayor who will keep Chicago safe. Law enforcement will feel comfortable that I got their back.”

Wilson has been under fire for suggesting violent criminals should be “hunted down like rabbits” and Chicago should take the handcuffs off its police officers to allow that to happen.

During a mayoral forum earlier this month, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused Wilson of denigrating “Black and Brown boys in our city,” calling it “offensive.”

Community activist and mayoral challenger Ja’Mal Green also weighed in at the time.

“When you have that mentality that Willie Wilson has, you have Tyre Nichols. You have George Floyd. You have Anjanette Young. We cannot have that in this city,” Green said then.

On Tuesday, Wilson stood behind the “rabbits” remark, reminding his audience he lost a 20-year-old son to gun violence in 1995.

“When someone ... kills somebody, they put themselves on the level of an animal. They are an animal,” Wilson said.

“I know what it feels like to lose a loved one — and people still not being caught. I don’t want nobody else have to go through what I’ve been through,” he said. “These people are losing their minds. In fact, they are out of their minds. The very next week or the next day, they go around and kill somebody else or harm somebody else. Break into someone’s home. This must and will come to a stop.”

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