CHICAGO — Maybe you’ve heard Mayor Rahm Emanuel on the radio asking Chicagoans to "answer the call" to join the Chicago Police Department as the Sept. 16 deadline application deadline nears.
“The next generation of Chicagoans has a chance right now to shape our city’s future,” the mayor says. “It’s easy today to be cynical about public service …”
Emanuel goes on, but let’s pause and think about that for a moment.
For years, Chicago’s murder problem, fueled by trigger-happy gangbangers, has shined an unflattering light on our city.
And the tradition of cop corruption and cover-ups, among other things, has left the Police Department struggling against itself to gain community trust.
You could say that our city has suffered those same problems dating back to Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit, continuing with the rise of corporate-structured street gangs that imploded into today's tiny gang factions that terrorize certain parts of town block by block.
It's easy for a cynic to say those things will never change.
But maybe that’s why the first police test in three years — one that lowers the hiring age to 21 and allows 18-year-olds to apply — means something.
There are video testimonials on the police application site showing cops talking about all the good things that come with being on the job — opportunities for advancement, pride in public service and having a “family” of officers watching your back, among other things.
So when Emanuel's voice comes on the radio radio saying, “It’s your chance to be part of something bigger, a community, a calling, a real force for good,” it’s easy for a cynical guy to hear it as just another propaganda sound bite.
But for our city, the most important thing just might be the opportunity it provides for good people to bring about change, from inside the department, that spreads into the streets.
“The history of Chicago is dreaming big dreams and making them happen,” the mayor’s public service announcement says.
Realizing our city's big dream — a better Police Department — starts with the first police test in three years. So far, 18,000 people have submitted applications.
So, if you’re one of those young people (ages 18 to 35) eager to be part of a slow, methodical culture change, this is your chance to "answer the call."
Go in with your eyes — and your heart — wide open.