Elgin set to ease police entrance requirements for ECC criminal justice grads
Elgin's latest effort to widen the pool of applicants for the police department makes allowances for criminal justice graduates from Elgin Community College.
These students would be allowed to take the police entrance exam if they have 60 hours of college credits, instead of a bachelor's degree, under a measure approved unanimously Wednesday by the city council. A final vote is expected in mid-August.
The 60 hours of college credits exception already applies to:
• Full-time police officers and military veterans with three years of active duty.
• People with four years and 400 volunteer hours in the Elgin police youth explorer program.
• People with at least three years of full-time employment in Elgin.
Police Chief Ana Lalley has taught criminal justice since 2008 at ECC, where other current and former Elgin police officers also are faculty.
"There's some people who cannot or don't want to go on to a four-year university ..." Lalley said. "This allows us to tap into a resource at a local community college, enhancing our ability to promote and diversify the police department."
The ECC criminal justice program -- made up of about 50% women -- gives students opportunities to participate in training and community engagement with Elgin police, she said. "It allows people to see what we're about, too, before they decide to take the test," Lalley said.
ECC criminal justice classes also are part of the dual credit program for high school students of Elgin Area School District U-46, Lalley said.
Councilwoman Tish Powell said the 60-credit hour exception also could include graduates of Harper College's criminal justice program.
"We will see how it works and whether to expand," Lalley said.
Elgin has 179 officers and is in the process of hiring five more, Lalley said.
Among current officers, 139, or 78%, are white; 25, or 14%, are Latino; eight, or 4%, are black; three are Native American/Alaskan; two are Asian; one is Hawaiian/Pacific Islander; and one indicated two or more races, according to police data. Sixteen officers, including Lalley, are women.
The city's residents are about 45% Latino and about 7% black, according to 2018 census estimates.
About 300 people registered to take the police entrance exam this year, Lalley said. The numbers over time have ranged from 100 or so to as many as 900, she said. "Three hundred is a decent number, but we would like to see more, obviously," she said.
Those who pass the exam go through a physical test and oral interview and later a medical and psychological evaluation. An eligibility list is created with the first job offers going to the top-scoring candidates.