The Chicago Police Department announced Tuesday that it will be testing applicants in December -- the first test since the force lowered the age at which people can apply and wear a badge.
Under the new rules, anyone 18 and older can take the test and anyone 21 and older can become a police officer. When the test was last given in 2010, people had to be at least 21 to take the test and 25 to join the force. Applications will be accepted between Aug. 1 and Sept. 16.
Department spokesman Adam Collins said lowering the age for both applicants and hires will attract qualified candidates who in the past may have not even applied.
"By the time you are 25 you are off on your career path," he said. "By moving the age we are getting people when they are making critical decisions about their futures." And he said allowing 18-year-olds to apply is especially significant because it helps them decide on their career path and take the college courses they must need to join the force.
The test, which is given every three to five years, depending on how long it takes to work through the pool of applicants, also comes amid talk about the size of the department.
The number of sworn positions is roughly 12,500. That is about 1,000 fewer than the number of positions in 2011, when the department reduced the number of sworn positions in an effort to reduce the city's budget. Both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy have said the department is at full strength and that the hires are necessary to keep up with attrition. The department has said that last year about 420 officers were hired and more than 400 more are now in the training academy.
But Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Michael Shields said that while the FOP supports lowering the age for applicants and hires for the same reasons Collins talked about, it's concerned that the department is not keeping up with the number of officers who are retiring and needs to step up substantially the number of people it hires.
"Last year there was a record 580 retirements and I anticipate that there will be in the ball park of 500 this year and (again) next year," he said.
He said the initiative launched by the department earlier this year to bring in hundreds of officers on overtime to work in high-crime areas "is an admission that we are short-handed on the streets."
McCarthy has in the past has disputed that contention, saying it is less expensive to bring in officers on overtime than to hire new ones.