Chicago's most powerful alderman joined forces Wednesday with chairmen of the City Council's Black and Hispanic Caucuses in demanding that candidates with minor drug and criminal offenses be allowed to become Chicago Police officers, reports the Chicago Sun Times.
Earlier this month, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) urged the Chicago Police Department to revamp its psychological exam and forgive minor drug offenses to attract minority police officers at a time of high crime and deep distrust in the African-American community.
At the time, Black Caucus chairman was urging Mayor Rahm Emanuel to embrace at least some of the recommendations of the Obama administration's Advancing Diversity in Law Enforcement initiative.
At Wednesday's City Council meeting, Sawyer picked up a pair of powerful allies in the drive to persuade the Police Department to relax its hiring standards in advance of a police entrance exam scheduled to be held in April.
Ald. Edward Burke (14th), powerful chairman of the City Council's Finance Committee, and Hispanic Caucus Chairman George Cardenas (12th) joined Sawyer in sponsoring a resolution called for City Council hearings to discuss implementing recommendations made in a report from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to push the recommendations made by Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
The report suggests that police departments across the nation should disregard minor criminal offenses of candidates from "underrepresented communities," revise the controversial psychological exam, and lower the bar for written and physical exams.
"Certain barriers — including background investigations that treat all arrests and criminal convictions alike regardless of type of offense or how recent the occurrence, or even screen out those voluntarily admitting to drug use alone [without any conviction] — can prevent the agency from hiring the diverse officers it needs to connect with and serve the entire community," the report says.
Likewise, psychological tests and credit checks put up "discriminatory employment barriers to women and racial minority applicants," the report states.
Burke made a similar argument Wednesday.
"Simply put, there are many occasions when a minor incident that occurred many years ago should not be enough to rule out a candidate for consideration," Burke, a former Chicago Police officer and longtime Police Committee chairman, said in a news release.
"We are not so much asking the department to lower [its] hiring standards as we are asking them to apply a greater standard of fairness."