UP, EPD have difficulties finding good applicants

Amy Hamblin

Months after the university created three new officer positions for the Evanston branch of University Police, no one has been hired.

And after 10 people have retired from Evanston Police Department in the past year, the department is still searching for new officers to fill its ranks.

Both Deputy Chief Joe Bellino of EPD and Asst. Chief Daniel McAleer of UP said they have seen waning interest in law enforcement careers because of a younger generation that is less interested in the traditional job security police departments can offer and less willing willing to work night and weekend shifts.

“It’s more difficult to hire now,” McAleer said. “It does involve some danger — it’s stressful. It’s not for everyone.”

Bellino said law enforcement is often not the first choice for many young people today. He said he remembers when young officers valued the profession’s job security and many arrived at a department expecting to retire from the same one. But now, he said, young people in general are more willing to move across the country looking for the jobs they want — and young officers are more willing to switch departments or even professions.

And with the economy getting better, young officers who view law enforcement as their second-choice career have more opportunities to switch professions.

“After the economy gets a boost, people might look to the industries that might have initially interested them,” he said.

For UP, the problem is exacerbated because not all good police recruits are cut out for a university environment, McAleer said. UP candidates need to have a different skill set from municipal or federal officers — they must want to interact with students and do more community work.

The three new positions were created by NU in the fall after a string of muggings targeting students, McAleer said. In addition, UP is also short after an officer left the force. McAleer said they have been receiving resumes, but have not made any offers.

UP currently staffs 20 field officers but is supposed to have 24 members. One officer is transferring from UP’s Chicago branch, so the department will have 21 officers by June 6.

McAleer said he doesn’t know when they will hire recruits for the three other positions. Because of training requirements, the earliest the vacancies could be filled is the fall.

“It’s tough to find the right fit,” he said. “The pool has gone down significantly.”

The problem for EPD is that the department is losing more employees than it can hire because of the onslaught of retirements. EPD is looking to fill several vacancies, Bellino said, but he didn’t know the exact number. The department is supposed to have 161 staff members.

David Peters, commander of the University of Illinois at Chicago police, said the only reason the number of officers would be shrinking is because the age group for recruits is shrinking.

“The baby boom is over,” he said. “If there is a trend, it may be the number in the age group is getting smaller.”

Reach Amy Hamblin at [email protected]