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City Considers Ending Police Entrance Exam, As Hiring List Runs Low

First Posted: 08/23/10 03:18 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 06:25 PM ET

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After a wave of summer violence resulted in dozens of murders across Chicago, including three police officers shot dead in two months, Mayor Richard Daley promised to get more uniforms on the street.

As a new class of 120 officers starts training next month, the mayor is making good on that promise for now. But the city is running out of eligible applicants to fill those uniforms.

One way the mayor is contemplating to fill the void, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, is entirely eliminating the police entrance exam.

Instead of having to pass a written test to be eligible for the force, candidates would be evaluated based only on their applications, as long as they met the minimum residency and education requirements.

This would make Chicago the only major city in the country without a police exam.

Many major players told the Sun-Times that such a system would be inadequate:

"They should not do away with any testing. They should take steps to make it tougher to get on the Police Department. You have to set a benchmark as far as scholastic ability," Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue said.

Former police brass also have denounced an application-only process as insufficient.

But the city is low on cops: the Sun-Times reports that the department has 960 vacancies, and a detailed analysis last week by the Chicago Reader described departmental budget tricks that have hid the declining number of beat cops on the city's streets.

And in order to give a new hiring exam under the current procedures, the city would have to hire an outside contractor, and wait as long as a year for the assessment to be developed, held and graded.

The only other option would be for the city to administer the test itself. It hasn't done this since 1992, when hundreds of firefighters' exams were lost by City Hall, and Mayor Daley hired a private contractor to restore public trust in the tests.

The mayor is mulling the three possibilities. And with a population increasingly worried about violence, and a mayoral election looming in February 2011, he may have to take some action soon.

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Filed by Will Guzzardi  |