The Chicago Police Department swore in 89 new officers on Monday. But the leader of the City Council’s Black Caucus said he’s not happy with the racial makeup of the new class, and may ask for public hearings.
Ten of the 89 new officers are African-American, which is about 11 per cent.
African-Americans make up about one-third of the city’s residents, and officials have said that increasing the number of black cops is a priority.
City Hall has spent millions of dollars in recent years to develop a race-neutral hiring process and recruit racial minorities to become cops. After all that, Alderman Roderick Sawyer told FOX 32 he’s astounded to see just 10 African-Americans among Monday’s new hires.
“I’m thoroughly disappointed in that number. I think it should be better, especially considering what the city has done to raise awareness on the opportunities for these jobs,” Ald. Sawyer said.
Ald. Sawyer, chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, was referring to the aggressive advertising and outreach campaign that was mounted to persuade African-Americans, in particular, to apply to become police officers. He told FOX 32 News that dozens applied from his 6th Ward.
“What I want to find out is, what is going on between that application process and the graduation. Something funny is going on,” Alderman Sawyer said. “Is it something that we’re doing wrong? Or is it something that’s systemic and maybe blatantly racist? I don’t know.”
The issue did not come up during or immediately after the swearing in ceremony. Chicago’s top cop praised the graduates.
“Very pleased with the quality of the group, very pleased with the way that we’re moving forward,” said Supt. Garry McCarthy.
The underrepresentation of African-Americans on the police force was an issue for several South Siders with whom FOX 32 spoke.
“We need more black officers, but more good black officers. Not just because they’re black, but because they are good and black. They care about the communities,” said Chicagoan Corey Hall.
“You just don’t want it to be a racial thing. It has to be about more than that. It has to be about keeping us safe, because it’s not just black people who are dying,” said Chicagoan Marian Williams.
A spokeswoman for the Chicago Police said currently 24 percent of the department’s nearly 10,000 officers are African-American. She added that the department “will continue to invest in recruiting and outreach strategies to make sure we are reaching the best and the brightest across the entire city.”