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Allow Chicagoans With 'Minor' Records To Apply To Be Officers, Aldermen Say

By Heather Cherone | December 15, 2016 3:48pm | Updated on December 16, 2016 10:17am
 Officers stand at a Chicago Police Department promotion ceremony.
Officers stand at a Chicago Police Department promotion ceremony.
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DNAinfo/Kelly Bauer

CITY HALL — Chicagoans with minor drug and criminal offenses would be allowed to apply to become Chicago police officers under a measure introduce by three powerful aldermen.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) — chairman of the City Council's Black Caucus — and Ald. George Cardenas (12th) — chairman of the Latino Caucus — joined the senior member of the Council, Ald. Edward Burke (14th), in urging the Police Department to change its standards for applicants.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised to add 970 positions to the Police Department over the next two years: 516 police officers, 200 detectives, 112 sergeants, 50 lieutenants and 92 field training officers. The department also will fill 500 vacant positions.

"It has to be small in my view," Emanuel said of the allowable offense, adding that he did not want a minor issue to stand in the way of someone "fulfilling their aspirations."

The new police officers will be charged with fighting Chicago violence that has wounded nearly 4,000 people and killed more than 700 this year.

To do that, goal, the city must enroll 100 new recruits per month through 2018 in its six-month training academy, city officials said.

Emanuel has repeatedly pledged that the new officers will be as diverse as the city they will be charged with policing.

The Police Department is now 48.5 percent white, 27.5 percent black, 20.7 percent Hispanic and 2.5 percent Asian, based on data provided by the city. Chicago as a whole is 32.2 percent white, 31.5 percent black, 28.9 percent Hispanic and 5.7 percent Asian, according to the 2014 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census.

The aldermen said the effort — based on an Obama administration initiative — was designed to increase police force diversity.

"We are not so much asking the department to lower their hiring standard as we are asking them to apply a a greater standard of fairness," Burke said.

The measure will be considered by the Council's Public Safety and Finance committees after the holidays, the aldermen said.

The deadline to apply to be a police officer is Jan. 31, officials said. The test to get into the academy is scheduled to take place in April at McCormick Place.