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Watchdog: Chicago struggles to hire Black police officers

July 8, 2021 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Police Department is struggling to hire applicants that will allow it to reflect the city’s racial makeup, even as it tries to comply with a federal consent decree to improve its policing practices, according to a report released Thursday by the city’s inspector general.

The report from Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office said white applicants are far more likely to get hired than African Americans as it questioned if the 12,000-person department’s employment process is equitable.

The inspector general office’s conclusions came after it examined the results of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2016-2018 police “hiring surge.” It found Blacks were more likely to fail the written exam, background check and psychological evaluation than applicants of other races.

At the beginning of the initial application process, 37% of the department’s applicants were Black in a city where 30% of the population is African American. However, by the end of the process, only 18% of all candidates who were invited to the police academy were Black. Latinos were 42% of those invited to the academy in a city that is 29% Hispanic, with 34% of final academy invitees were white.

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The report shined a spotlight on attrition rates for the different stages of the hiring process, which takes 18 months before entrance into the police academy. The stages include a written test, two physical fitness tests, a drug test, a background investigation and a psychological exam.

Most applicants wash out during the written test, first physical fitness test and background investigation, the report found.

For the written test, Black male and female applicants had the highest attrition percentages at 62% and 66%, respectively, the report states. For white male applicants taking the test, the attrition was 47% and for white females it was 46%, according to the report.

As for the first physical fitness test, the attrition rate was the highest for Black female applicants at 75%, followed by Black male candidates at 59%. Sixty-seven percent of Hispanic female candidates did not make it past that stage and neither did 58% of Latino male candidates. For white female candidates, 60% didn’t make it past the fitness test, nor did 57% of white male applicants.

Ferguson’s office said the department should reevaluate its hiring practices for bias and recommended it clarify its stated goal of looking for candidates “that reflect our communities’ broad cross-sections” by specifying the benchmarks for diversity in its hiring.

Responding to the report, police department officials said they and other city officials are working with a consultant for the consent decree to address this recommendation from Ferguson’s office. But the consultant won’t fully begin that effort until next year when budgeted funds will be available.