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Record Turnout For Chicago Police Exam

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A record 9,600 people lined up Saturday to take the Chicago Police Department's entrance exam, the first such test in four years.

As CBS 2's Pamela Jones reports, police officials believe a tough job market and troubled economy probably played a role in the large turnout, though people in line said that wasn't the case.

Many of the people who took the test at McCormick Place on Saturday said they have jobs already and they considered the chance to join the Chicago Police Department a special honor.

Applicant Karen Schmitz arrived several hours early for the test.

"I'm just going through, like, what could be on the test, what couldn't be on the test, did I prepare myself enough?"" she said as she waited in line.

Fellow applicant Brandon Artim also was trying to prepare himself for the exam.

"I'm looking forward to taking it. I've prepared myself and got enough sleep," Artim said.

Police officials held two sessions for the 9,600 people taking the test on Saturday. That's more applicants than all four testing sessions in 2006, the last time the city offered a police entrance exam.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780's Bob Roberts Reports


"We're getting a great turnout today. And again, it is a long process, but it is the essential one," Police Supt. Jody Weis said.

Many applicants shared similar reasons for wanting to join those who already have the honor of wearing a Chicago police badge.

"You can provide safety for the people around you; your neighborhood, all your close family and friends," Schmitz said.

"I've wanted to do law enforcement since I was about 19. I went through the Marine Corps and did that for four years. And since I've been out I've been looking forward to getting into it and trying my best," Artim said.

Both of them said they were saddened by the recent murders of Chicago police officers, but the deaths didn't scare them away from trying to join the force.

"It's a risk that you know that you're taking. But it comes with the territory," Schmitz said.

"I don't want people to think that police are being targeted. They are not," Weis said. "But we've had more than our share of tragedies this year. And we can only hope and pray that 2011 will be much safer year. And having enough officers on board is a very important aspect of that."

Weis said that before Saturday, the pool of eligible applicants to hire from the previous exam had dwindled to almost nothing.

The results of the exam will be posted in 6-8 weeks. Weis said then, police department human resources personnel will begin conducting background checks on each candidate and make sure their educational transcripts are accurate.

"They'll be testifying in court, so we want to make sure they have credibility, and that they have nothing in their background that would make them a non-credible witness," he said.

He said the candidates also will have to pass physical fitness and psychological exams.

Only then can they be called to the Chicago Police Academy for training, which can last anywhere from four to six months.

As a result, Weis said, the first officers from the new hiring list won't hit the streets for about a year.

He said they will be welcomed.

"You can have a lot of great ideas, but at the end of the day you have to have bodies to execute those ideas," he said.

Weis said Chicago remains in "good shape" when compared with many other large cities, despite being nearly 2,000 officers below authorized strength.

The department has administered 13 exams since 1999. The largest number of applicants to sit for an exam at one time before Saturday was 4,061 in February 2006.

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