Chicago police traveled to Camp Pendleton in California in late May to recruit Marines as part of a strategy to address staffing shortages.
According to officials with the Chicago Police Department, the agency is down roughly 1,100 officers after the COVID-19 pandemic and a wave of retirements took its toll. Other officers simply resigned from burnout following attacks against police over the last few years.
Now, as part of a new pilot program, the department intends to fill its vacancies by recruiting former Marines who are “compassionate” and “qualified.”
Every year, 9,000 Marines from Camp Pendleton transition from military to civilian life. Many of those former Marines go on to start careers in law enforcement — a fact Chicago P.D. is aware of and hopes to take advantage of.
Recently, officers with the department, including some who were once Marines themselves, offered potential recruits the opportunity to take the Chicago P.D. entrance exam, get drug-tested, have their fingerprints scanned and answer a mandatory questionnaire over the course of a few days, streamlining a process that would normally take months.
Deputy Chief Migdalia Bulnes, who is in charge of the recruiting effort, struck down criticisms over the move.
“The first thing is, you know, are we making the law enforcement process too militant — that’s the first question we’re going to get — and no, we’re not,” she told CBS News. “They’re individuals just like us, just like you — everybody. They’re an individual. The process will weed out those who have issues.”
The Chicago P.D. was able to attract 20 new recruits with the strategy in April at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
“We are overwhelmed at the success of the inaugural recruitment trip,” Rick Simon, chairman of the Chicago Police Foundation, said. Simon led the department’s delegation to Camp Lejeune.
“Our department deserves the best in class, and the Marines at Camp Lejeune exemplify the quality and characteristics of the finest Chicago Police Department officers,” he said.
“Given the relationship between the Chicago Police Department and the USMC, this will be an ongoing program in Camp Lejeune and other Marine bases,” Bulnes said at the time.
According to Simon, the department hopes to recruit 200 qualified candidates each year under the program. Officials are hopeful the program will grow and diversify the department.
“These efforts are essential to building a more diverse police department reflective of the entire city, while keeping and growing trust, strengthening our department and making our city safe,” Chicago P.D. Deputy Director Tom Ahern said.