CHICAGO— More than 16,500 Chicagoans applied to join the Chicago Police Department, city officials announced Sunday.
That is a 16.5 percent increase from the last time the police department accepted applications in 2015, officials said.
The pool of applicants — who will take an exam in April to determine whether they are qualified to enter the five-month police academy — is also the most diverse in the city's history. More than 35 percent of the applicants are African-American, 33 percent are Hispanic and 2.4 percent Asian American, officials said.
Overall, nearly 32 percent of the applicants were female and more than 73 percent were nonwhite, officials said.
In 2015, 71 percent of police department applicants were nonwhite, officials said.
The large pool of diverse applicants comes after Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed to work “double hard” to meet his pledge to expand the Police Department by 970 officers — and ensure those new officers reflect the city's multicultural makeup.
"The response to our call for applicants is proof positive that as a city we are committed to making our police department bigger, more diverse and more reflective of all our strengths," Emanuel said.
Emanuel and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson have vowed to implement reforms ordered by federal officials after a Department of Justice investigation found Chicago officers routinely used excessive force against minorities and tolerated "racially discriminatory conduct" by officers.
City officials held hundreds of recruitment events in the last several weeks and plastered the city with posters urging Chicagoans to "be the change" by joining the Police Department.
April's police exam is the third exam in four years as city officials push to add 970 positions to the Police Department in 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.
The new officers will be charged with stopping a surge in violence that started last year and shown no sign of slowing down in the first month of 2017, with just as many shootings and murders in January 2017 as in January 2016.
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.
Johnson said he was "encouraged" by the large number of applicants and the high percentage of minorities.
"These applicants represent the next generation at CPD who will work with veteran officers to build trust with our communities and make Chicago safer," Johnson said.
A measure to allow Chicagoans with minor drug and criminal offenses to apply to become Chicago police officers has been introduced by three aldermen.