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 has approximately 12,950 sworn officers on its roster, serving a population of over 2.7 million residents.1,2 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.
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 21 years old, but less than 40 years old
- Legal residents of Chicago by the time of hire
- 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 OR one year of active duty plus 30 semester hours
- Hold a Firearm Owner’s Identification Card (FOID card)
- Hold a current driver’s license in the state of Illinois
- Register for, take, and pass the Chicago police exam during an announced testing window
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 (POWER) Physical Exam 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 a sworn officer.
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 Recruit Academy
Once applicants have met all of the physical, administrative, and examination requirements, they are placed into the Chicago Police Department Recruit Academy. The academy program consists of over 1,000 hours of basic recruit training 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.3 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 at the Chicago Police Recruitment Office.
Chicago Police Department Information
Currently, officers within the Chicago Police Department may work on patrol, in special units, 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 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)
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. Patrol officers are eligible to apply for transfer to a specialized unit after their probationary period.
In recent years, the CPD has been accused of racial profiling and other discriminatory practices, as well as corruption in the ranks. Following an 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.
The Chicago Police Department is encouraging community participation with 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.
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, 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.4 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 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for police officers in the Chicago metro area was $79,690 as of 2017.5
The CPD is currently undergoing a major hiring push and added 800 sworn officers between October 2016 and March 2018.1 While the CPD does not typically release hiring and assignment numbers due to the fear that publicized information about its police efforts and strengths will alert gangs and other enforcement targets to its plans, the hiring push is expected to continue across the city’s districts.6 Across Illinois, employment of police officers is expected to increase by 4% through 2026.7
For more information on current Chicago law enforcement positions, take a look at our job board page.
- Chicago Fraternal Order of Police – The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police is a collective bargaining agent for all Chicago police officers.
- Illinois Association of Police Chiefs – The Illinois Association of Police Chiefs represents 1,200 members from over 450 law enforcement agencies in Illinois. The organization seeks to provide professional development for police officers and act as a legislative advocate in the interests of the law enforcement profession.
1. Chicago Tribune, “Despite Hiring Push, Chicago Police Still Falling Short in Attracting Black Officers,” 4 May 2019: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-chicago-police-hiring-20180503-story.html
2. Data USA, Chicago, IL: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/chicago-il/
3. Chicago Police Department: https://home.chicagopolice.org/
4. DNA Info, “More Than 14,000 Chicagoans Apply For Police Force, Officials Say,” 23 Oct. 2017: https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20171023/beverly/more-than-14000-chicagoans-apply-for-police-force-officials-say/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_16974.htm
6. Chicago Sun-Times, “Chicago Police Districts Won’t Get Full Effect of Hiring Surge Until End of Year,” 21 Feb. 2018: https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/chicago-police-districts-wont-get-full-effect-of-hiring-surge-until-end-of-year/
7. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm