Chicago Police Department seeks to recruit Marines amid officer shortage

Chicago Police Department seeks to recruit Marines amid officer shortage

Nearly 50 new officers recently joined the Chicago Police Department, but it is still 1,300 officers short of what the department says it needs.

“The reality is that we need to fill the gaps quickly,” Chicago police Deputy Chief Migdalia Bulnes told CBS News.

So Chicago is looking to former Marines to help fill the void.

On a trip to Camp Pendleton near San Diego, where about 9,000 Marines become civilians every year, Bulnes brought with her six officers, all former Marines, to help in the recruiting process. But it’s not always an easy sell. Bulnes said one of the biggest challenges in recruiting new officers is “the negativity that goes around it.”

Since the national reckoning that followed George Floyd’s death in 2020, police departments across the country are struggling to keep officers. According to a recent survey of 172 police departments, resignations are up by more than 40% since 2019, and retirements increased by almost 25% during the same period.

While Marines — highly trained, fit and disciplined — might seem like a perfect fit, some worry that skills meant for battlefields aren’t suitable for city streets.

“The first thing is: are we making law enforcement process too militant?” Bulnes asks. “And no, we’re not. They are individuals, just like us, just like you. The process will weed out those that have issues.”

Background checks, drug screens and written tests were given immediately onsite to the 19 Marines who applied. A process that typically used to take several months is now compressed to three weeks.

Cpls. Christopher Rivera and Jeremiah Harrington were among those who signed up. Rivera said he had no hesitations.

“Especially joining the Marine Corps, that’s something that you know what you signed up for,” Rivera told CBS News.

“I just want to bring the crime rate down and serve a great community,” Harrington said.

Charlie De Mar

Charlie De Mar is an Emmy Award-winning reporter for CBS2.