Standing before 100 new Chicago police recruits on their first day at the academy, Commander Daniel Godsel issued a stern warning about the next six months of training. “It’s going to be very difficult, physically and mentally,” he told the recruits. “You’re going to find conditions at the academy strict and demanding. We’re gonna hold each of you to the very highest of standards, and we will not tolerate anything short of excellence.” Police numbers show that the recruits have little reason to worry about washing out, the Chicago Tribune reports. All but a relative handful of trainees graduate from the academy and become cops, raising concerns about how rigorous and selective the department is in inducting new officers. Over a recent four-year period, the academy graduated more than 97 percent of its recruits, say data the Tribune obtained through a public records request.
A U.S. Justice Department study of 600 police academies found about 86 percent of recruits graduated between 2011 and 2013. And the rate of failure is even higher at some big-city departments. In Los Angeles, about a quarter of recruits don’t make the cut. Chicago police officials defended the low attrition rate, saying that aspiring recruits undergo a “stringent” vetting process before being admitted to the academy. The high graduation rate backs up the Justice Department’s recent report on the Chicago Police Department that alleged that academy officials failed to weed out subpar recruits while providing sloppy, outdated instruction. While lacking specific figures, the report said the department has known its attrition rate was ” ‘very close to zero’ and thus well below normal levels present in police academies across the country.”