At a time when police across the country are under increased scrutiny, Naperville has an officer applicant pool of 860 candidates — thanks in part to a new recruitment campaign and the waiving of a $45 applicant fee.

Now, instead of an average of 270 candidates during the past four hiring cycles, Deputy Chief Jason Arres said, the pool has grown in a way that activists hope will help the overwhelmingly white department make progress toward one of its long-standing goals: better mirroring local demographics.

Naperville’s population is 68% white, 18% Asian, 6% Hispanic, 5% Black and 3% other, according to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The police department — with 172 sworn officers — is 89% white, 2% Asian, 2% Black, 5% Hispanic and 2% other as of 2019. The department has 21 female officers, making up 12% of the force; 19 of them are white, none are Hispanic or Black and two fall into other racial categories.

“One of the biggest things we continue to try to work toward every year is having our department reflect our community,” Arres said. “I think it’s important at any time — whether we’re in a controversial time for policing or a normal time for policing — our department should match our community.”

No matter a candidate’s demographic background, applying to be a police officer in Naperville is a job for the patient and the dedicated. It requires prerequisites of a bachelor’s degree in any field and a Police Officer Wellness Evaluation Report from the state.

The recruitment and hiring process, after meeting these prerequisites, involves at least nine steps, including five instances of review by the city’s board of fire and police commissioners. The police department itself doesn’t make any decisions on who to hire, Arres said. That responsibility falls to the board.

Picture Source: Courtesy of Naperville Police Department  

SOURCE ( Marie Wilson / Daily Herald )