Residency rule limits diversity within CPD

Masood Khan, born in India, and Glenford Flowers, born in Belize, passed their entry exams for the Chicago Police Department in 2006 only to be denied jobs because they had not lived in the U.S. for 10 consecutive years, which was a requirement for joining the city’s police force, according to a Feb. 8 Chicago Sun-Times article. 

That policy changed in 2011 following a finding by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the policy was discriminatory. The city did not settle the applicants’ claims until Feb. 8, when the City Council’s Finance Committee approved a $3.1 million settlement for a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Feb. 4, according to the article. 

The article stated that the lawsuit involved a total of 47 immigrants who were denied jobs by the CPD because of the continuous residency rule. 

The change to a five-year prior residency requirement has “really no record about why that decision was made,” according to First Assistant Corporation Counsel Jane Elinor Notz, who was quoted in the article. Both five and 10 years seem to be arbitrarily chosen numbers with little reason, so why is a  prior residency period required at all?

At the meeting of the City Council’s Finance Committee, Alderman Nick Sposato (38th Ward) expressed concerns about challenging the regulation, citing the need for a background check as a reason for the continuous residency requirement.

“I don’t think we did anything wrong,” Sposato said in the article. “We need a history. We need to know what these people are like.”

If the Department of Justice found the policy to be discriminatory, something was obviously done wrong. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on national origin and alienage, and this regulation clearly violates that by giving native Chicagoans a hiring preference that recent immigrants do not have.

If individuals can pass entry exams and successfully go through the police academy, they have proven they can be law enforcement officers. If these tests are insufficient to prove someone is ready to be an officer, then they should be expanded to ensure that officers are prepared to go into the field.

Furthermore, finding a justification for prior residency is hard. It is not likely to make an applicant more knowledgeable about Chicago law as that is an important part of police academy training. Nor is it necessary to acquaint someone with Chicago neighborhoods, which can take place concurrently with training. All things considered, the best indicator of readiness to perform the job is the ability to take and pass the exam to join the police force.

What’s more, hiring immigrant officers could be the key to diversifying police forces, according to a July 3, 2015, Al Jazeera America article.

According to 2010 data from the American Community Survey, Asians and Hispanics are underrepresented in the CPD. One way to counteract this is by giving people from different backgrounds the opportunity to join CPD.

Police departments should make diversifying their forces a priority, but this regulation hinders them from doing that and reflects a resistance to diversity within the CPD.

This is just another example of how CPD has wasted opportunities for growth by failing to re-evaluate policies until forced to face an expensive, time-consuming reality through lawsuits and department investigations.