Human Relations Commissioner Soo Choi heard more of the same complaints from aldermen at her budget hearing Wednesday, with repeated accusations that her department lacks diversity and the police psychological exam is racially biased against minorities. The two issues are brought up every year at budget hearings. More recently, members of the Latino Caucus have resorted to using props.
Choi revealed that there has been some difficulty filling the Chief Diversity Officer position announced this time last year. “I admit there has been some delay,” she explained to Ald. Rick Munoz (22), “We had some issues with the salary. Recruitment was tough at first, so I increased the salary a little bit to attract more candidates.”
She said she met with two candidates but both fell through. The diversity officer would be tasked with tracking minority hiring throughout city government and detailing the results to City Council. Munoz retorted that Choo was “spinning the wheel” with excuses, audibly sighing throughout her response.
“I recognize that we have challenges in recruiting more Latino applicants. I acknowledge that. We have tried different strategies. I am disappointed that those strategies have not produced higher levels of interest in DHR positions from the Latino community,” Choo said. She added that the recent campaign by police to boost the number of minority applicants produced one of the most diverse applicant pools, suggesting the process could be replicated. DHR hired an outside contractor to oversee community outreach.
Handling the application process and administering the entry exam for new police recruits has been the largest initiative for the department this past year and will continue through the end of 2018. DHR administered the police exam to 8,620 candidates in April, about 75% of those applicants identified as minorities. Another test is scheduled for December with 14,000 individuals already registered.
CPD Psychological Exam
In 2016, the city eliminated the application fee for the police and fire exam based on an internal analysis that suggested it was one of the biggest deterrents for minorities. But for the past several years, some aldermen have argued the psychological exam is the biggest deterrent. It was also the subject of a federal lawsuit that was ultimately dismissed (Bonnstetter et al v. City of Chicago et al Case No. 13 CV 4384.)
Choo said approximately 170 candidates were disqualified from the recruitment process in 2016 based on the results of the psychological exam, and 150 candidates appealed the test results.
The ability to appeal is the test is new, noted Choo, “So going forward, when an individual is disqualified based on the psychological evaluation, when they receive notice of that, they will receive the information for how to request an appeal.”
Choo said this process “works for now” given the massive recruitment campaign by CPD and suggested her department is considering a “longer term, more permanent process.”
CPD outsources its background checks and pre-employment psychological tests. The Chicago-based Center for Applied Psychology and Forensic Studies (CAPFS) and California-based Law Enforcement Psychological Services, Inc. (LEPS), as a joint venture, have held the contract for the psychological exam since 1996, according to the Mayor’s Office. (In 2008, they received a no-bid contract, according to city records.) Kentech conducts the background investigations and US Health Works conducts the medical and drug screening.
The CAPFS-LEPS contract was scheduled to expire in 2013, but it included a three year renewal option. In February, the police department renewed the $1 million contract for one year and backdated the term to December 2016. It expires in November.
Budget Highlights (FY 2018 Appropriation increased to $7.4 million)
- Employment Services & Hiring – DHR processed approximately 298,000 applications as of Oct. 24 representing a 23.9% increase from 2016. About 4,049 vacancies were also filled, a 17% increase.
- The average time to fill a vacancy is 143 days, down from 184 days in 2016