The Chicago Police Department said 18-year-olds will be allowed to take this year's entrance exam as part of an effort to increase the number of eligible applicants hoping to join the force.
The application age is being dropped from 25 to 18, while the new minimum age to become an officer will be 21.
"By offering the exam at 18 and letting them enter at 21, it allows us to reach people as they are making major decisions about their career path," said Chicago Police Department spokesman Adam Collins. "It allows us to increase the pool of eligible applicants."
The new requirements will take effect during the next entry exam that will be held later this year — although a test date and location and haven't been set. The last test was given in 2010. The exam is typically offered once every few years.
The change brings Chicago in line with other major metropolitan police agencies.
Twenty-one is the minimum hiring age for officers in New York and Los Angeles. In those cities, prospective officers can take the police exam at 17 ½ and 20 ½, respectively.
The minimum application age was raised to 25 in 2010 by then-Police Superintendent Jody Weis, who wanted to attract a more mature officer. Before that, the application age was 21.
Michael Shields, head of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, said he supports the change.
"We believe that the department loses many motivated, qualified candidates who graduate from college at age 21 or 22 and do not want to wait three or four years to start their career," Shields said of previous age requirement.