CITY HALL — About 18,000 people who passed a firefighter exam in December are awaiting word on when they might be selected in a lottery as the Chicago Fire Department's newest recruits.
According to the city's Human Resources Department, 17,948 passed the test, the first given by the city since 2006. Although Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago has acknowledged, "We have a problem with the amount of minorities we have," the lottery was expected to be totally random and not weighted by race.
"Several weeks ago, the city began notifying those who passed the test to join the Fire Department," said Carolyn Mulaney, Human Resources spokeswoman. "This is not just a big day for each applicant individually, but also for residents in neighborhoods throughout Chicago who will soon benefit from their commitment to public service."
Yet no one seems certain when the call might come for new recruits or how many might be selected at first.
"At this time the [department] does not know when or how many will first be called," Mulaney added, although the list of those who passed the test should be the source of new recruits for years to come.
Some 25,300 people applied to take the exam and were ruled eligible to do so in December at McCormick Place. According to Human Resources, 4,769 never showed up for the test, and 2,583 failed.
According to the Fire Department, the initial pool of those taking the test found 44 percent were white, with 24 percent Hispanic and 22 percent African-American. The department was hopeful a random draw from that pool would help correct racial imbalance in the rank-and-file.
Santiago testified during last fall's budget hearings that the department was 65 percent white, 18 percent African-American and 15 percent Hispanic. Just over 300 new recruits were hired last year, but they did not correct the imbalance.
The Fire Department has had legal problems with a physical examination, later ruled biased against women, and in racial discrimination stemming from an earlier exam in the '90s.
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