Chicago officials demand more fire dept. entrance exams to increase diversity

With the last firefighters entrance exam taking place in 2014, and the next one scheduled for 2021, Chicago aldermen are demanding a higher frequency


CHICAGO — Chicago officials are demanding more firefighter entrance exams in an effort to increase diversity within the department.

City officials expressed their frustration over Chicago Fire Department firefighter entrance exams, saying they should occur more frequently, Chicago Sun Times reported. 

The last exam occurred in 2014, and the next one is scheduled for 2021.

Chicago officials are demanding more firefighter entrance exams in an effort to increase diversity within the department. (Photo/CFD)
Chicago officials are demanding more firefighter entrance exams in an effort to increase diversity within the department. (Photo/CFD)

“Don’t you think that’s an investment that is worthwhile? We can’t keep doing the same dance expecting different results,” Alderman Leslie Hairston said while addressing Human Resources Commissioner Soo Choi. “We’re not going to be able to diversify the fire department until we recruit diversity to the fire department.”

Hairston added that the department has a documented history of discrimination.

“You think 2021 is an adequate amount of time to ensure that there’s diversity on the fire department? We have the history ... of discrimination [in a department that] dragged its feet for so long, by the time the list of eligible fire people were up, they were too old to actually join the force,” he said.

Choi said the tests cost $3 million, and with 18,207 candidates processed from the 2014 exam and 15,000 candidates still on the list, more frequent testing is not worth the money.

“Unlike police officer eligibility lists, the fire department does not move through its eligibility lists not even close to as [quickly]. It becomes a cost-benefit analysis,” Choi said. “I’m aware – more than aware – that there is a desire to test more frequently. I’m committed to looking at all possible options.”

Alderman Pat Dowell suggested setting aside money each year for the city’s rainy day fund so that funds could be raised for more exams.

“It’s important to do because, as we heard from the fire commissioner, he has to go through 100 people on the list in order to just find one,” he said.

Choi said she agrees the city “should be testing more frequently,” but that she first wants to “find ways to bring that price tag down.”

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