by Nolan Peterson April 17, 2012
National and area programs meant to put vets back to work have made law enforcement careers an attractive option after military service – making a valuable manpower resource more accessible to area law enforcement.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Department has made it easier for vets to apply for a job. According to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Sheriff of Cook County Training Academy was recognized as an approved site for G.I. Bill benefits in March 2011.
“Our veterans proudly answered the call to protect and defend this nation and it’s our top priority to ensure that they have access to a great education and great jobs when they return from deployment,” said Dan Grant, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs director.
The Sheriff’s department said the percentage of veteran graduates at the academy increased from 8 percent to 33 percent within five months of the G.I. Bill expansion.
“We are incredibly proud to have our training academy recognized as a place where those who served our country can receive additional compensation for continuing their education and careers,” Sheriff Thomas Dart said.
According to Chicago police, the murder rate in Chicago is up 56 percent over last year. The upswing in violence highlights the need for talented and capable area law enforcement officers.
Sheriff’s department representative Nora Sheahan said the increased presence of military veterans has improved operational effectiveness.
“The military veterans employed across all aspects of our organization bring unparalleled training and skills to our operations that make us a stronger and more effective law enforcement agency,” Sheahan said. “We’re very grateful for the experiences, skills, and dedication that veterans bring to the table.” The Chicago Police Department has also seen a rise in military recruits.
According to a police representative, the increase in recruits is due to multiple incentives meant to encourage military veterans into their ranks.
In 2010 the minimum age for police service was reduced for military veterans, and a rule was established mandating that a minimum of 20 percent of referred academy applicants be military veterans.
The Chicago Police Department also allows make-up test dates for returning veterans unable to take regularly scheduled application exams due to service commitments.
The push to include more veterans in police ranks is part of a national plan to put veterans back to work. In February President Obama announced nationwide grants in 2012 of $166 million to hire veterans as police officers, and $320 million to hire them as firefighters and emergency personnel. Obama will set aside $4 billion in the 2013 budget to promote police recruitment of post 9/11 veterans.
With the end of the war in Iraq and the announcement of the 2014 drawdown in Afghanistan, many politicians and experts are concerned about the potential for widespread unemployment among veterans, including veterans advocate, Gov. Pat Quinn.
“Our veterans defended our country and now they deserve our help as they transition into the workforce,” Quinn said.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said more than 2.8 million men and women have served in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the national unemployment rate for post 9/11 veterans is 9.1 percent, compared to an overall national rate of 8.3 percent.