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Minimum age for Chicago cops raised to 25, exam set for Dec. 11

The Chicago Police Department said it has raised the minimum age for applying to become an officer to attract more mature candidates and also is offering a new hiring preference for military veterans, officials said Thursday.

Police Supt. Jody Weis announced that the department will administer a written entrance exam on Dec. 11 -- the first test in four years. The department will accept applications online through Nov. 26 at The maximum age is 40 at the time of hire.

At least 20 percent of applicants picked for each class will be veterans -- as long as enough veterans apply, Weis said. Three makeup exams will be offered for returning veterans unable to take the regularly scheduled pre-employment exam.

Members of the armed forces with a minimum of three consecutive years of active duty -- or one year of military duty and 30 semester hours of college credit -- can apply even if they are as young as 21, Weis said.

All other applicants must be at least 25 and complete 60 semester hours of college.

Police officials said older applicants with more life experience could make better decisions on the streets. And they noted military veterans have already undergone substantial training.

Not everyone thinks raising the application age from 21 to 25 is a good idea. New York and Los Angeles have a minimum hiring age of 21 for officers.

"My thought is that you are excluding some very good candidates and possibly forcing them into a different profession," said Brad Woods, who ran the department's Personnel Division under former Chicago Police superintendents Phil Cline and Terry Hillard.

One pool of potential recruits is particularly upset at the increase in the minimum age for applicants.

The department's cadet program allows people between 17 and 21 to work in districts and learn how officers do their jobs. One cadet, who is 23, said he works in a North Side district and was shocked to see that he must wait two more years before he is eligible to apply.

"I get paid $9 an hour," he said. "I put my life on hold. I passed up better- paying jobs. Knowing how to write a report is not really useful in the outside world. I don't think it's fair."

But police officials said there's a long history of officers working for suburban agencies, then moving to the Chicago Police Department. Also, many people have been willing to wait years on hiring lists until they were called to join the police academy, officials said.

Others have criticized the college education requirement. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council's Police Committee, had unsuccessfully called for the department to drop the college requirement to open the door for more minorities to become recruits.

Chicago will hire as many as 200 more police officers next year -- in addition to a 120-member class that entered the police academy last month -- to ease a manpower shortage. The city budget includes funding for hiring two new classes of recruits. Each would include 75 to 100 recruits. On Sept. 1, a class of 117 recruits entered the police academy to begin six months of training, depleting a 2006 hiring list. None is under 25, records show.

A two-year hiring slowdown has left the department more than 2,300 officers a day short of authorized strength -- counting vacancies, medical leave and limited duty.