Chicago Police Department Sergeant Daniel Allen, an 11th District CAPS officer, is making the case for minorities to apply to become police officers all over the West Side of Chicago.
Over his 23-year career, Allen, who has served on tactical, undercover and narcotics units, said the community has changed, specifically when it comes to how residents relate to the police.
The Douglas Park native said recent incidents involving police nationwide have given law enforcement “a black eye with the community.” Those incidents, which he believe are isolated and don’t reflect the wider law enforcement community, seemingly negate the many positive aspects about the police, he said.
“There was more cohesiveness between the community and the police, as opposed to now, when there’s a lot more division for various reasons,” Allen explained. “There’s more distrust of the police and distrust of the community now than it’s ever been in the past.
“If people of all nationalities, especially minorities — African Americans, Hispanics — join the police department,” Allen argued, those groups can address their communities’ concerns directly.
The sergeant’s thoughts echo the sentiments of Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who told CBS 2 Chicago recently, that “the more new blood we get in, the more we can effect change.”
“With [Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s] office and the superintendent’s office, we recognize the fact that African Americans have not been registering for the police exam as much as they have in the past several years for several reasons,” said Allen. “We are making the push to let the minority community know this is a great job.”
In 2013, African American police officers represented just 24.7 percent of the total 47.1 percent of minorities working for the Chicago Police Department, according to a 2015 report by Governing Magazine.
Chicago’s African American representation on the police force lagged far behind other large cities like Atlanta (57.9 percent), Baltimore (40.3 percent), Detroit (62.6 percent), and New Orleans (58.2 percent).
Allen acknowledged that there are certain dangers of living in the same community you serve, adding that he himself has always worked near his home.
But the longtime cop also said that officers who live within the community where they work also display their commitment to their neighborhood. The Manley Career Academy HS alum described seeing an officer who looks like him on patrol within his community as “great”.
“One of the things is if you’re from the neighborhood you tend to have a better understanding and are more empathetic to people that have issues,” stated Allen.
He said that he knows that many Caucasian officers who work in black communities can also be caring and empathetic, but there’s an added degree of sincerity when the beat a cop is working is where he was raised and grew up.
“It feels really good to see African Americans patrolling the neighborhood because you know you’re going to get that sincerity from them,” he said. “You should expect that.”
West Side resident Sharee Brown said at a recent CAPS event that it’s “very important” to have officers who look like neighbors serve the community.
“When you see police officers who don’t look like the people within this area, you feel like they can’t really relate to what’s going on in this area,” she said. “You don’t look like me, you don’t live in this area, so you don’t know what’s going on.”
Individuals interested in becoming police officers are required to have 60 college credit hours in any major in order to be a viable candidate, according to Allen. He added that the age range to be an officer is between 21 and 40 years old; however, 18 year olds can go through the process as well, but they will have to wait to be hired.
Chicago Police Department applications will be accepted until Jan. 31, 2017 with an exam to follow on April 1 or April 2 at McCormick Place, according to CPD’s website.
An open house for prospective officers is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17. New officers’ starting salary is $48,078 which increases to $72,510 after 18 months on the force. To learn more about CPD’s recruitment efforts, visit www.chicagopolice.org/bethechange.