How to Become a Police Officer in Chicago
Dating back to 1837, the Chicago police force is one of the oldest in the world. Today, Chicago is home to the second largest police force in the US, just behind the NYPD. Currently the city has 11,944 police officers on the Chicago police force which calculates to an impressive 4.4 sworn officers per 1,000 residents.1
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.
Chicago Police Officer Requirements
All candidates looking to work in Chicago law enforcement must attend the city’s police academy before being eligible for employment. However, the police academy training is only available to those who meet a number of prerequisites required by the department.
In order to be eligible for police training, all candidates must be at least 21 years old, but less than 40 years old and legal residents of Chicago by the time of hire. Candidates must also hold a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card (FOID) before being eligible for employment as a Chicago cop. Additionally, all Chicago police officers are required to hold a current driver’s license in the state of Illinois.
Like most cities, there is also a minimum education requirement for police candidates. All applicants must have at least 60 semester hours (or equivalent quarter hours) from an accredited university or college OR have completed three consecutive years on active duty in the US Armed Forces. Alternatively, anyone that has at least 30 semester hours from an accredited learning institute AND has served one continuous year of active duty in the Armed Forces may also be eligible.
Examinations Required for Chicago Police Recruits
All applicants aspiring to be a Chicago cop must first pass a written examination. 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. At this point, applicants will be submitted to number of medical and background checks as well as drug screening and a psychological assessment.
Additionally, all candidates must pass the Police Officer Wellness Evaluation Report (P.O.W.E.R.), a four-component examination that is administered to applicants several times during the hiring process. Once all the requirements listed above have been satisfied, applicants will then be eligible to enter into the Chicago Police Academy.
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 Chicago Police Department’s website.
Chicago Police Department Information
Currently, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has nearly 12,000 sworn women and men that serve the Windy City, either working on patrol or in administrative duties. The department is overseen by the Police Superintendent, appointed by the mayor of the city.
The CPD is divided into four specialized units, seven bureaus and 22 police districts led by district commanders. The seven bureaus are divided into the following categories:
- Bureau of Patrol (BOP)
- Bureau of Detectives
- Bureau of Organized Crime (BOC)
- Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA)
- Bureau of Administration (BOA)
- Bureau of Organizational Development (BOD)
- Bureau of Technical Services (BTS)
The seven specialized police units in Chicago include the Canine Unit, Civil Rights Unit, Marine Unit, Helicopter Unit, Mounted Unit, Bike Unit, and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit.
Chicago Police Training Academy
Once applicants have met all of the physical, administrative and examination requirements, they may be eligible to enter the CPD’s Education and Training Division. This program provides new recruits with 1000 hours of basic officer training and can take up to one or two years to complete, depending on curriculum completion schedule. It also focuses on preparing the CPD recruits to pass the Illinois State Peace Officer’s Certification Exam, the final exam necessary to become a certified 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.
In September of 2013, about 18,000 applicants applied for the last Chicago Police recruitment process of the year.2 For more information on Chicago recruit hiring and the police academy training process, consult the information found at the Chicago Police Recruitment Office.
Chicago Police Salary and Jobs Outlook
In 2017 the starting salary for a Chicago police officer was $48,078, with an increase to $72,510 after 18 months of service. The Chicago Police Department 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 include an annual uniform allowance.3
For more information on current Chicago law enforcement positions, take a look at our job board page.
More Information on the Chicago Police Department and Crime
The Chicago Police Department is very active in community participation on many levels. The department has a number of programs aimed at local residents as well as families in need. One of their most innovative programs, “Shop With A Cop,” is an annual event that assigns participating police officers to families who need financial help at Christmastime.
Additionally, many off-duty Chicago cops regularly participate in The Chicago Youth Leadership Academy, which is a three-week long program aimed at reducing violence in some of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
3510 South Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60653
Phone: (312) 744-4000 (non-emergency only)
- Chicago Fraternal Order of Police: http://www.chicagofop.org/
- Illinois Association of Police Chiefs: https://www.ilchiefs.org/
1. FBI.gov: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/tables/78tabledatadecpdf/table-78-state-cuts/table_78_full_time_law_enforcement_employees_illinois_by_city_2012.xls
2. Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-09-07/news/ct-met-chicago-police-academy-20130907_1_chicago-police-department-written-test-police-officers
3. Chicago Police: http://directives.chicagopolice.org/forms/CPD-61.400.pdf
4. Chicago Police Department: https://home.chicagopolice.org/
5. City of Chicago: https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en.html
Image Credit: Antonio Vernon