OIG Finds That the Chicago Police Department’s Multi-Stage Hiring Process Reduces Representation of Minority Candidates from Initial Application to Point of Hire

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Public Safety section evaluated the demographic impacts of the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) multi-stage hiring process. That process is often a lengthy one, including numerous stages designed to evaluate a candidate’s cognitive ability, physical fitness, personal background, physical and mental health, and other predictors of job performance. CPD’s leadership has articulated the importance of a diverse Department, but the representation of minority candidates is markedly reduced over the course of that multi-stage process. OIG found that CPD has a disproportionately high attrition rate for Black candidates, especially Black female applicants, which contributes to the low number of Black officers hired, with certain stages of CPD’s process most responsible for decreasing Black representation in the candidate pool. Additionally, for female candidates, both a low application rate and the disproportionate impact of the hiring process decreases female representation by the time of hire.

The objectives of OIG’s evaluation, led by the Public Safety section working coordinately with OIG’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Director and Compliance unit, were to determine whether there are patterns in attrition rates for different demographic groups and which specific stages of the hiring process most impact the demographic composition of CPD’s candidate pool. Also, OIG assessed whether CPD’s applicant data allowed for unique applicants to be tracked throughout the hiring process; the time it took applicants to complete the hiring process; and the data regarding candidates whose applications succeed through the entire hiring process.

OIG found that demographic representation among hired police officers substantially differs from representation in the initial applicant pool. Additionally, OIG found that:

  • Black candidates, while comprising 37% of the initial applicant pool, comprised just 18% of the pool of candidates invited to CPD’s Academy. Conversely, Asian, Hispanic, and White candidates increased in their proportion of the applicant pool by the end of the hiring process.
  • Female candidates submitted fewer applications at the start of the hiring process, comprising 34% of the initial pool. The proportion of female applicants decreased throughout the process, representing only 27% of those invited to the Academy.
  • CPD’s formalized preferences for applicants who are Chicago Public Schools high school graduates and veterans may improve racial diversity, while veterans’ preference may increase the gender imbalance.
  • Academy recruits were clustered by neighborhood, and therefore poorly represented geographic areas of the city may warrant the targeting and tailoring of future CPD recruitment efforts.
  • The failure to track individual candidates at each stage in the process and other data limitations impair analysis of the equity of CPD’s hiring process.

OIG recommended that CPD evaluate the stages of its hiring process for biases that most contribute to the disproportionate attrition of Black and female candidates, and implement changes to improve candidate longevity and boost candidate preparedness. OIG made 17 recommendations to CPD and the Office of Public Safety Administration (OPSA) Human Resources to help with implementing benchmarks for diversity in hiring, which included the following:

  • Provide candidates more details about disqualifying standards in the background investigations process and seek ways to shorten the length of the nearly year-and-a-half long hiring process.
  • Assess the equity of accessibility for test preparation sessions and test materials, and seek ways to lower administrative hurdles for candidates.
  • Coordinate with the City’s Department of Human Resources (DHR) to review the procedure for applying status classifications to candidates, and have DHR establish and use consistent and appropriate race and ethnicity classifications in all CPD and DHR forms used throughout the hiring process.
  • Apply consistent and appropriate gender categories.

CPD and OPSA responded jointly and agreed with OIG’s recommendations, committing to continue to evaluate the hiring process and look for ways to improve it. CPD and OPSA committed to several changes to their hiring process with expected implementation in the near term.

“The outcomes of CPD’s hiring process do not reflect the City’s rich demographic diversity—not because of the pool that goes into the process, but because of the pool that comes out of it. It is the disproportionate attrition of minority candidates throughout CPD’s process—not a lack of minority applicants—that drives underrepresentation of certain demographic groups among those hired by CPD. CPD’s hiring process produces disproportionately high attrition rates for minority and female applicants, especially Black men and women,” said Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg. “In this report we have identified those stages of CPD’s process at which most of the disproportionate impact occurs, and recommend that CPD examine its process to ensure it is not contaminated by any bias. We are pleased that that CPD and OPSA have agreed with our recommendations, and we urge swift attention to changes that would make CPD better and stronger by virtue of being more diverse.”

The full report can be found online at OIG’s website: bit.ly/CPDHiring.

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The mission of the independent and non-partisan City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity by identifying corruption, waste, and mismanagement in City government. OIG is a watchdog for the taxpayers of the City and has jurisdiction to conduct investigations and audits into most aspects of City government. If you see corruption, fraud, or waste of any kind, we need to hear from you. For more information, visit our website at: www.igchicago.org.