Police Hiring Process Leads to ‘Disproportionately High Attrition’ for Black Candidates: City Watchdog

The lengthy hiring process potential officers must go through to join the Chicago Police Department has led to a “disproportionately high attrition rate for Black candidates,” according to a new review from the city’s internal watchdog.

Chicago’s Office of Inspector General found that while Black candidates make up 37% of the initial officer applicant pool, they comprised just 18% of the candidates who were ultimately invited to CPD’s Police Academy.

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“While CPD has made some efforts to increase the recruitment of Black candidates, this evaluation found that it is the disproportionately high attrition of Black candidates throughout the hiring process, not a lack of applicants, that is most responsible for the low number of Black Police Officers ultimately hired,” the office wrote in its report Thursday.

The report details the extensive hiring CPD process, which includes “numerous stages designed to evaluate a candidate’s cognitive ability, physical fitness, personal background, physical and mental health, and other predictors of job performance.”

At the end of that 18-month process, a select group of applicants is admitted to the Chicago Police Academy where they complete another six months of training before spending a year as a probationary officer.

While the number of Black applicants drops as the hiring process goes on, the OIG found the opposite was true for white, Asian and Hispanic candidates, who each make up a greater proportion of the applicant pool by the end of the hiring process.

According to the report, the officer exam, physical fitness test and the background investigation were the stages during which there is the largest decrease in Black candidate representation.

“Black male candidates experienced the highest attrition rate in the background investigation stage relative to all other candidates,” the report states, “while Black female candidates experienced the highest attrition rate in the physical fitness test stage relative to all other candidates.”

Female candidates also submitted fewer applications at the start of the hiring process, according to the report, making up 34% of the initial pool and just 27% of those invited to the Police Academy.

The OIG also found that the police department has failed to track individual candidates at each stage of the application process, which, along with other data limitations, “impair analysis of the equity of CPD’s hiring process.”

Black officers make up about 21% of the CPD, while white officers comprise 47% and Latino officers account for 28%, according to data maintained by the OIG.

In its report, the OIG made 17 recommendations for improvement, including shortening the length of the hiring process, providing candidates with more details about disqualifying standards in the background investigations, lowering “administrative hurdles” for candidates and assessing the equity of accessibility for exam preparation sessions and materials.

Both the CPD and the Office of Public Safety Administration have agreed with these recommendations and have pledged to revise the hiring process.

“We are pleased that (the) CPD and OPSA have agreed with our recommendations,” Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg said in a statement, “and we urge swift attention to changes that would make CPD better and stronger by virtue of being more diverse.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected]m | (773) 509-5431

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