How to Become a Police Officer in Chicago
Dating back to 1837, the Chicago police force is one of the oldest in the world. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) serves a population of over 2.7 million residents and, with approximately 12,000 sworn officers, is the second-largest department after New York City.1 The CPD has 279 police beats within its jurisdiction in addition to special units and divisions. To combat a rising violent crime epidemic, the CPD has pledged to focus on community policing and other proactive initiatives designed to effectively curb violence in Chicago’s communities. Anyone looking to become a police officer in Chicago must fulfill a number of requirements before becoming eligible for active duty in the city. The steps to eligibility are explained in detail below.
Table of Contents
- Police Officer Requirements
- Education and Training Division
- Department Information
- Police Reform
- Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
- Surrounding Cities and Police Departments
- Additional Resources
Chicago Police Officer Requirements
Prospective Chicago cops must meet a number of prerequisites required by the department. The department typically only opens the recruiting process every few years; upcoming hiring periods are announced through the CPD website. To be considered for hire, applicants must:
- Be a US permanent resident (citizenship not required)
- Be at least 20 years old, but younger than 40 years old (must be 21 before entering the Police Academy)
- Hold a current driver’s license in the state of Illinois by the time of hire
- Legal residents of Chicago by the time of hire
- Have at least 60 semester hours (or equivalent quarter hours) from an accredited college or university or have an acceptable combination of education and employment or active duty experience
Candidates who meet these requirements and apply during an open recruiting period will be placed on an eligibility list. Applicants with passing scores will be placed on a pre-qualified applicant list and entered into a lottery. As positions become available, those entered into the lottery will be called for further processing. The next steps include passing the Pre-Peace Officer Wellness Evaluation Report (Pre-POWER) Test and drug screen; completing a personal history questionnaire and undergoing a background investigation; taking a final POWER physical exam; and passing psychological and medical examinations. Candidates may then receive a formal offer of employment. All candidates looking to work in Chicago law enforcement must attend the city’s police academy before being eligible for hire as sworn officers.
For more information, see 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our homepage. Once you are ready to apply for a position, application information can be found in the career section of the CPD’s website.
Chicago Police Department Education and Training Division
Once applicants have met all of the physical, administrative, and examination requirements, they are placed into the Chicago Police Department’s Education and Training Division (ETD) or Recruit Academy. The academy program consists of over 900 hours of basic recruit training over approximately six months and prepares CPD recruits to pass the Illinois State Peace Officer’s Certification Exam, the final exam necessary to become a sworn Chicago police officer. The basic structure of the training program covers firearms knowledge and use, control tactics, classroom, and physical training as well as scenario-based training. The curriculum also emphasizes the CPD’s core values: professionalism, obligation, leadership, integrity, courage, and excellence, or, POLICE.
For more information on Chicago recruit hiring and the police academy training process, consult the information found on the Chicago Police Recruitment Officer Recruitment page.
Chicago Police Department Information
Currently, officers within the CPD may work on patrol, in special units, or in administrative duties. The department is overseen by the Superintendent of Police, appointed by the mayor of the city. The CPD is divided into three offices, the Office of the Superintendent, the Office of the First Deputy Superintendent, and the Office of Constitutional Policing & Reform. There are 22 police districts, each led by a district commander. Bureaus include:
- Bureau of Counterterrorism
- Bureau of Crime Control Strategies
- Bureau of Detectives
- Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA)
- Bureau of Patrol (BOP)
Specialized police units in Chicago include the Canine Unit, Civil Rights Unit, Education and Training Division (ETD), Marine and Helicopter Unit, Mounted Unit, and Special Investigations Unit. Patrol officers are eligible to apply for transfer to a specialized unit after their probationary period.
Department Contact Information
Police Reform in Chicago
In recent years, the CPD has been accused of racial profiling and other discriminatory practices, as well as corruption in the ranks. The Police Scorecard Project, the first nationwide public evaluation of policing, ranks police departments in cities with populations greater than 250,000 on factors such as department funding, use of force, officer accountability, and arrests for low-level offenses. The CPD ranked 25%, making it the lowest-ranking city in the state.2 According to the data, the CPD spent more per capita on police than 93% of comparable departments and had more police shootings than 87% of departments.2 It only ranked 2% for racial disparities in deadly force, with data indicating that a Black person was 22.5 times as likely to be killed by police as a White person from 2013-2020.2
Following a 2017 investigation by the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and recommendations of the Mayor’s Police Accountability Task Force, the department now officially rejects racial profiling as a tactic in policing and has published on its website a commitment towards not encouraging, tolerating, or condoning the use of profiling. The CPD is also in the midst of a widespread reform effort that is targeting enhanced community policing, improved police training, crisis intervention, and improved supervision and accountability. The CPD has also recently revised its Use of Force policies and procedures in the wake of several high-profile, cop-involved shootings. Chicago has implemented seven of the eight recommended policy changes by the #8cantwait Project, including banning chokeholds, requiring de-escalation, requiring a warning before shooting, requiring all alternatives to be exhausted before shooting, duty to intervene, use of force continuum, and requiring comprehensive reporting.3 The proposed policy to ban shooting at moving vehicles is still under consideration.3
The CPD is encouraging community participation with a number of programs aimed at local residents, particularly at-risk youth. One example is the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) Program, which teaches young people how to set goals, resist pressure, resolve conflict, and understand the impact of gangs in their community. It has also developed seven “pillars” of community policing, which includes building trust with members of the community, engaging the city’s youth, and improving community-oriented training for officers.
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
According to the CPD website, as of March 2022, the starting salary for a Chicago police officer was $54,672, with an increase to $82,458 after 18 months of service.3 The CPD also offers a number of regular pay increases and promotions for specialized or command positions. Salaries are also supplemented according to annual duty availability and benefits include an annual uniform allowance, tuition reimbursement, health insurance, and home purchase assistance.3 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for police officers in the Chicago metro area was $$87,050 as of 2021.5
In an effort to counter the recent spike in attrition rate, the CPD is waiving the education requirement for three years of experience in certain jobs (including police officer, correctional officer, detention officer, security worker, or careers in social service, healthcare, or education.6 Across Illinois, employment of police officers is expected to increase by 1.8% through 2028.7
For more information on current Chicago law enforcement positions, take a look at our job board page.
Cities and Police Departments Near Chicago
The BLS estimates that there are about 24,500 police and sheriff’s patrol officers working in the greater Chicago metropolitan corridor.5 Chicago is bordered by numerous suburbs that range from small to large that are consistently hiring police officers. The table below provides more information on police employment and crime rates in the greater Chicago area. For more information about police departments across the state, see our Illinois page.
|City||Force Name||City Population8||Police Dept. Total Employees8||Sworn Officers8||Civilian Staff8||Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People9||Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People9|
|Arlington Heights||Arlington Heights Police Department||75,249||133||106||27||0.43||7.97|
|Aurora||Aurora Police Department||199,784||362||298||64||2.58||10.08|
|Chicago||Chicago Police Department||2,707,064||14,015||13,160||855||9.43||29.83|
|Des Plaines||Des Plaines Police Department||59,023||117||100||17||0.95||11.01|
|Evanston||Evanston Police Department||74,047||212||157||55||1.55||26.16|
|Naperville||Naperville Police Department||149,061||251||166||85||N.Av.||N.Av.|
- Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP): A collective bargaining agent promoting the health and welfare of all Chicago police officers and their immediate families, and maintaining the professional standards for the occupation.
- Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP): Represents 1,200 members from over 450 law enforcement agencies in Illinois, providing professional development opportunities for police officers and acting as a legislative advocate in the interests of the law enforcement profession.
1. Data USA, Chicago, IL: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/chicago-il/
2. The Police Scorecard Project: https://policescorecard.org/
3. #8cantwait: https://8cantwait.org/
4. Chicago Police Department: https://home.chicagopolice.org/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_16980.htm
6. Chicago Sun-Times, “Chicago Police Department loosens requirements to help recruiting efforts,” 10 Mar. 2022: https://abc7chicago.com/chicago-police-department-cpd-recruiting-how-to-become-a-officer/11640971/
7. Projections Central: https://www.projectionscentral.org/projections/longterm
8. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/tables/table-78/table-78.xls/view
9. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/tables/table-8/table-8.xls/view