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Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of the Chicago Police Department’s frequently asked questions. These questions and answers came from individuals like you and we hope you find this information helpful. If you have more specific questions that you would like answered, please contact us.

Can I substitute my service in the military or in another police department for part of the educational requirement?

We accept four years of continuous, active military service in the armed forces of the United States in lieu of 60 semester-hours of college credit. We also accept one year of continuous, active military service in the armed forces of the United States combined with 30 semester-hours of credit from an accredited college or university. We do not accept service in another police department.

Can you give me some idea of what’s involved in the application process?

There is information about the application process on this website under “Inside the CPD” on the top navigation bar. Click on the link for “Recruitment/Employment.”

How do I go about becoming a homicide detective (or working in the Marine Unit, the Canine Unit, etc.)?

You must first be hired as an entry-level Police Officer with the City of Chicago. After your probationary period, you may apply to a specialized unit as opportunities become available. The selection process may range from a competitive examination to simple seniority. We cannot guarantee that you will be accepted into the unit of your choice.

I am a citizen of a foreign country. Am I eligible to become a Chicago police officer?

Yes, as long as you have an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Proof, such as an Alien Registration Card (Green Card) will be required if you are called for further processing.

I am a police officer in another jurisdiction. Do you accept lateral transfers?

No. You must apply for and be hired as an entry-level Police Officer.

I live out of state. Can you mail me an application?

No. We do not mail out applications, but when applications are being accepted, you can apply online.

When is the next police officer application period?

The next Police Officer application period has not been determined. Our recruitment process is ongoing and we encourage you to attend one of our recruitment events. You may contact members of our Ambassador Program for more information.

Where can I get an application to become a Police Officer?

When applications are being accepted, they will be available at all Chicago Public Libraries, online on our website, and at selected recruitment events and locations.

My friend retired from the Chicago Police Department, and I’ve lost track of him. Can you give me his current address?

No. We cannot provide the home address of any current or former member of the Department.

My great grandfather (or other relative) was a Chicago Police Officer in the 1930s. Can I get a record of his service with the Department?

Yes. We will be glad to send you a copy of his/or her leger card, which typically contains the following information:

  • Former job
  • Date of probationary appointment
  • Date of regular appointment
  • Rank
  • Promotions
  • Awards

We will not be able to provide star numbers or assignments. Information maintained on officers before computerization was much more limited than it is today. Note also that we can provide information for City of Chicago police officers only. We do not have records for suburban officers.

You can e-mail your inquiry to [email protected]. Be sure to provide a street mailing address, as we cannot respond to genealogical inquiries by fax or e-mail.


Abbreviation for “also known as”; synonym for “alias.”


Abbreviation for “assistant state’s attorney.” An assistant state’s attorney, acting on behalf of the state’s attorney, represents the state in criminal proceedings. In Cook County, an assistant state’s attorney must review all felony charges before they are approved


Abbreviation, often used in case reporting, for “arresting officer.”


The doctrine by which one is liable for the criminal conduct of another. Example: A agrees to help B rob a store, but only on condition that there be no violence. B assures A that no one will be hurt in the robbery. B nevertheless kills a clerk in the commission of the robbery. Both A and B may be criminally liable for the murder.


A person’s acknowledgment of his/her involvement in criminal behavior, but not in itself sufficient to establish guilt. Example: a suspect acknowledges having been at the crime scene, but does not confess to having committed the crime.


(offense; e.g. aggravated assault, aggravated battery): A condition which makes an offense more serious, and subjects the offender to greater punishment. Example: using a deadly weapon, or wearing clothing that conceals one’s identity, in the commission of an assault constitutes aggravated assault.


A group of five police districts which share a detective unit, a youth investigation unit, and male and female lock-up facilities. Chicago is divided into five areas.


To take a person into custody, by authority of law, for the purpose of charging him/her with a criminal offense. An arrest is proper when an officer observes criminal behavior or reasonably believes the individual has engaged in criminal behavior; or upon warrant issued by a judge or magistrate.


Unlawfully damaging real or personal property by means of fire or explosives. The property must have a value of $150 or more. This offense includes damaging one’s own property with the intent to defraud an insurer.

Assault and Battery

Two distinct offenses which can occur independently or together. Assault is placing someone in reasonable apprehension of a battery, e.g. by making threatening statements or raising a fist. Battery is causing bodily harm to a person by any means, or making physical contact with a person of an insulting or provocative nature.

Beat Car

A police car assigned to patrol a specific beat.

Beat Community Meeting

A forum held at least quarterly, and often monthly, on each of Chicago’s 279 beats. Police and community members jointly identify, prioritize, and develop strategies to address local crime and disorder problems.

Beat Integrity

A Chicago Police Department strategy to keep officers on their own beat as much as possible (rather than assisting in emergencies on other beats). This allows officers to get to know both residents and problems on their beat.

Beat Plan

A plan of action developed by the beat team, with input from the community, on significant problems on the beat and how to address them. The framework of analysis is the “crime triangle,” which views each problem in terms of three legs: victim, offender, and location

Beat Team

The eight or nine officers from all three watches assigned to the same beat, and the sergeant who serves as team leader.


A geographic area assigned to specific officers for patrol. There are 281 beats in Chicago.


Acronym for Chicago’s Alternative Policing Strategy. This is the Department’s community policing strategy, based on a partnership between the police and the community. Although it is officially called an alternative policing strategy, it is the Department’s principal strategy for addressing crime and disorder problems.

Civil Action

A lawsuit in which a private party, rather than the state, is plaintiff, and where the plaintiff’s remedy is either money damages or an injunction. In some cases, the same conduct can give rise to both a civil or criminal action.

Community Adjustment

Disposition of a juvenile offense which involves releasing the offender to a parent or guardian, with follow-up assistance by either the police or a community agency. A community adjustment is an alternative to juvenile court, made in the discretion of the police, for less serious offenses. Also referred to as a “station adjustment.”Complaint
A statement under oath whereby a witness accuses an individual of criminal behavior. Although a complaint may trigger an arrest, it is not in itself sufficient in Illinois and most jurisdictions to bring the offender before a criminal court.


A person’s admissions of enough facts to establish his or her guilt of a particular crime.


Agreement with another, or others, to commit a crime, and an act by any party to the agreement in furtherance of the agreement

Court Advocacy

A CAPS program in which community volunteers identify and track court cases and attend court proceedings that are of concern to the community. Attendance at court shows support for victims and lets the judge and defendants know that the community is concerned about the outcome of the case.

Criminal Action

A lawsuit in which the state or the public, rather than a private party, is plaintiff, and the defendant faces punishment such as a fine or incarceration if convicted.


Abbreviation for “dead on arrival,”as applied to a person who expires before reaching a medical facility.


Abbreviation for “date of birth.”


A sworn member of the Department responsible for the follow-up investigation of crime.

Disorderly Conduct

An act which unreasonably alarms or disturbs another and provokes as breach of the peace.


Oral statements, documents, sound and video recordings, and objects admissible in court. To be admissible, evidence must be material (it must go to a substantial issue in the case) and relevant (it must go to the truth or falsity of a matter asserted).

Exempt Staff

Senior-level executive staff who serve at the pleasure of the Superintendent of Police.


An offense for which a sentence of death or a term of imprisonment for one year or more is provided.

Flash Message

An informal broadcast message transmitted via police radios, sent by an officer at the scene of a crime/incident, to alert other officers in the vicinity. It is not a distress call. Example: following a hit-and-run traffic accident, the first officer at the scene may send out a flash message regarding the offender’s vehicle, description, and direction of flight. Other officers in the area can watch for the offender.

Forcible Felony

Treason and any felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against a person. If a felony is classified as forcible, it may have significance for other aspects of the criminal law. Examples: a homicide committed in the course of another forcible felony is classified as first-degree murder. On the other hand, a homicide may be justified if committed to prevent a forcible felony.

Grand Jury

A panel of registered voters which considers charges a prosecutor has filed against an accused, and/or investigates criminal activity on its own direction. The use of the grand jury varies throughout the country. In some states, it is mandatory for all felony charges. In others, there is no grand jury system at all. Illinois has a grand jury system, but its use in a particular case is a matter of prosecutorial discretion.

Homicide, Justifiable

A homicide based on the perpetrator’s reasonable belief that he had no alternative but to use deadly or substantial force to protect himself from immanent death or great bodily harm, or to prevent a forcible felony.


The unlawful killing of a human being. Includes both murder and manslaughter.

I.R. Number

Abbreviation for Individual Record Number. The number assigned to an individual upon his or her arrest. This number is used in any subsequent arrests of the same individual.


Acronym for Information Collection for Automated Mapping. An award-winning computer program developed by the Chicago Police Department, which allows officers to do their own crime mapping and analysis. Maps generated by ICAM are also shared with the community at beat community meetings.


An accusatory document presented by a grand jury to the court, charging a named individual with a crime.


An accusatory document filed in court by a prosecutor, without indictment, charging a named individual with a crime. The term derives from the prosecutor’s statement that he makes his charges based on his “information and belief” rather than firsthand knowledge.


To threaten another in order to influence his behavior. The threat may include physical harm, restraint, confinement, or accusations of crime (even if true).Juvenile
A person under 17 years of age, also referred to as a youth. Also see minor.


Abbreviation for “last known address.”


A temporary detention facility. While in lockup, the prisoner is photographed and fingerprinted. Each Chicago district station has a male lockup, while each district headquarters has both a male and female lockup.


Abbreviation for “modus operandi,” Latin for method of operation. The pattern of behavior which is typical of how a particular offender commits a specific type of crime. Example: An offender who always wears dark glasses in the commission of a bank robbery


The unintentional killing of another through a reckless act. Illinois recognizes only an involuntary killing as manslaughter. If the act causing death is voluntary, the Illinois Criminal Code classifies the offense as either first or second degree murder.


A person under 21 years of age. Also see juvenile.


An offense for which the maximum term of incarceration is less than one year.

Murder, First Degree

The killing of another with intent to cause death or great bodily harm; or with knowledge that the conduct in question will cause the death of another person; or with knowledge that the conduct in question is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another person; or in the commission of a forcible felony.

Murder, Second Degree

The killing of another such as would constitute first degree murder, with specified, mitigating circumstances: the offender was acting under sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation; or the offender believed there were circumstances which, if they had existed, would have been legally sufficient to justify the killing.


A violation of the criminal law of a state or local jurisdiction.


Abbreviation for “probationary police officer.” A sworn member who has been employed as a Chicago Police Officer for less than one year. Informally referred to as a “rookie.”

Petty Offense

An offense for which the only allowable penalty is a fine.

Probable Cause

A reasonable belief, based on available information, that a person has committed a crime. A court must find probable cause before it issues a search or arrest warrant, or authorizes the pre-trial detention of a person arrested without a warrant.


In the CAPS model, a problem suitable for police/community resolution has the following characteristics: it is a group of related incidents; it affects a number of people; it is unlikely to disappear without intervention; a number of people agree to work on it; and it can be impacted with available resources.


Abbreviation for “responding officer,” a term used in police case reporting.


Sworn Ranks in the Chicago Police Department are as follows:

  • Superintendent of Police-Four Silver Five-Pointed Stars
  • First Deputy Superintendent-Three Silver Five-Pointed Stars
  • Deputy Superintendent-Two Silver Five-Pointed Stars
  • Chief-One Silver Five-Pointed Star
  • Assistant Deputy Superintendent-Silver or Gold Spread Eagle
  • Deputy Chief-Silver Oak Leaf
  • Commander-Gold Oak Leaf
  • Captain-Two Silver Bars
  • Lieutenant, Inspector-One Silver Bar for Lieutenant
  • Sergeant-Three Chevrons
  • Police Officer Assigned as Detective, Police Technician, Patrol Specialist, Investigator, Gang Crime Specialist, Police Agent, Traffic Specialist & Police Officer

Rapid Response Car

A squad car assigned to patrol a sector within a district and respond to in-progress (emergency) calls. Instituted as part of the CAPS strategy, rapid response cars allow beat officers greater opportunity to deal with chronic problems on their own beat

Roll Call

The first half hour of a watch, reserved for attendance, inspection, briefings, and training


One of three geographic divisions within a police district, comprising three to five beats.

Statute of Limitations

The period of time within which a lawsuit must be brought, after which it is barred for lapse of time. In Illinois, a prosecution must be commenced within three years of the commission of a felony, or within one and one half years of the commission of a misdemeanor. There is no limitation on when a prosecution can be brought for murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, treason, arson, or forgery.

Sworn Member

A member of the Chicago Police Department who takes an oath to support the constitution of the United States and Illinois. A sworn member has the authority to make arrests and carry firearms.

Tactical Officer

A police officer who works in plain clothes and concentrates on vice and narcotics arrests


An officer’s radio call for emergency assistance. A ten-one call is a matter of the utmost urgency, and is responded to by any available unit which is nearby.

Tender Age Youth/Juvenile

A person under the age of 13.


Abbreviation for “vehicle identification number.”

Watch Commander

A lieutenant or captain who directs all police activities within a district during a specific watch. Examples of the watch commander’s duties include deploying patrol officers within the district, approving arrests, and checking the status of the lockup.


A police shift. The police workday is divided into three watches. The first watch begins at 11 pm or midnight; the second, at 7 or 8 am; and the third, at 3 or 4 pm.


A person under the age of 17, also referred to as a juvenile.

How do I make a missing persons report?

Go to a district police station and make a report in person. You will need to sign the report.

Can’t I make a missing persons report by calling 911 or 311?


How long must I wait to make a missing persons report?

There is no mandatory waiting period. Common sense should be your guide. Please keep in mind that even people who are regular in their habits can get stuck in traffic, caught in a long line at the supermarket, or they can run into an old friend on the way home from work. Circumstances like these can cause unexpected departures from normal schedules. Please allow for these kinds of circumstances before making a report.

I’m in a different city. I can’t come to a Chicago police station to report my missing relative or friend.

You can find another person who is able to come to a district station and make the report for you. We will accept a third-party report

I’ve lost contact with my relative, whom I haven’t seen in many years. No one in my family seems to know where she is, or what became of her. I know she used to live in Chicago. Can you help me find her?

As much as we would like to help, we are unable to respond to situations involving lost relatives or friends. The individual must fall within our definition of a missing person for us to investigate.

My relative or friend doesn’t live in Chicago, but was planning to spend time there. I haven’t heard from this person, and I want to make a missing persons report.

If a missing person doesn’t live in Chicago, the appropriate place to make a report is where the person lives. The police department in that location will contact us as appropriate.

What is the Chicago Police Department’s definition of a missing person?

A missing juvenile is a person under 17 years of age whose whereabouts are unknown by a person having the responsibility for his welfare. A missing adult is a person seventeen years or older whose whereabouts are unknown by close family members, friends, or associates; the absence is unaccounted for; and unusual circumstances exist surrounding the absence.

Who can report a missing person? Must it be a family member?

In the case of a juvenile, the person having responsibility for the juvenile’s welfare is the appropriate person to make a missing person report. That will usually be the parent or guardian. In the case of an adult, anyone who knows the individual well enough to make a reasonable inference that the individual is missing can make a missing persons report. That means someone who knows the individual’s usual activities, schedule, and whereabouts.

There is a long-standing problem in my neighborhood I would like to report (like drug dealing, prostitution, unruly bar patrons). Who should I report this problem to?

To report chronic, non-emergency problems, you can do several things:

  • Enter a Community Concern in our on-line Community Concerns Reporting application. It can be accessed by navigating to the “Community Concerns” link located under our “Community” selection on the CLEARpath navigation bar.
  • If the problem affects a number of residents in your neighborhood, consider going to your next Beat Community Meeting, where you can work on the problem with your neighbors and the police. The schedule of the upcoming Beat Meetings in your district can be found under your district’s Event Calendar.

To find the event calendar for your district, click on the “Events” selection under the “Get Involved in CAPS” selection located on the CLEARpath navigation bar. Click on your district to display the current calendar.

If you don’t know your district, use our “Find Your District, Beat and Community” search option located on the “Districts” link under the “Community” section on the CLEARpath navigation bar.

Please remember, the issues that you report should be of a NON-EMERGENCY type that do not require immediate 911 assistance.

If a call requires immediate emergency assistance, you should call 911 immediately.

Can I get information about a case that was investigated by the CPD?

Case files are not public information. You may, however, make a Freedom of Information request for case information. You will then receive information about the case that has been deemed non-sensitive. For information and instructions, go to Inside the CPD on the top navigation bar of this website, then scroll down to Freedom of Information Act on the drop-down menu.

Can I make a police report online?

You can make an online report for lost property or theft less than $500. Click on the Online Crime Reporting link in the left column of this website. Other police reports must be made by calling 311 from within Chicago, or (312) 746-6000 from outside Chicago. To make a traffic accident report or a missing persons report, you must personally visit a district police station and make such a report in person.

How can I get a copy of an incident report?

There are several ways to obtain an incident report. Vehicle Accident Reports can be obtained on-line through the CLEARpath “On-Line” Services link labeled “Accident Reports”. There is a $6.00 cost for each report purchased on-line. You can also visit our Records Services Section or you can mail us your request. The charge is $5.00 for a traffic report and $0.50 for all other reports requested by mail or walk-in. If you would like to obtain a report through our walk-in services, you can come to our Records Services Section at 3510 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60653. If you are submitting your request by mail, please be as specific as possible about the parties involved, the date of the incident, the location of the incident, and provide the RD number if at all possible. Your request and payment, in the form of a check or money order, can be mailed to the Chicago Police Department – Records Inquiry Section (Unit 163), 3510 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60653

I lived in Chicago for a few years. Now I’m planning to emigrate to another country. That country requires me to produce a letter saying I was never convicted of a criminal offense while I lived in Chicago. How can I get such a letter?

A Letter of Clearance is a letter that certifies whether a person has been convicted of a criminal offense (excluding traffic or minor regulatory ordinances). The letter is issued for passport, immigration, or adoption purposes only and cannot provide character reference or identification. Members of the general public requesting a letter of clearance must request such letters in person at the Chicago Police Department Records Customer Service Section , 3510 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60653. Requesters can obtain these letters only for themselves, not for any other person, and will be required to present proper photo identification at the time of processing.

If you do not reside in Chicago and cannot visit the Chicago Police Department in person, you can submit a request to the Illinois State Police through their Uniform Conviction Information Act (UCIA). Visit the Illinois State Police website for more information.

The City of Chicago’s “Find Your Vehicle” web site provides 3 ways to search relocated and police towed vehicles.

I have a small pickup with truck license plates. Can I drive it on Lake Shore Drive?

No. You cannot drive any vehicle designed to carry freight or other commercial goods on Lake Shore Drive–or on any thoroughfare designated as a boulevard– even if you are not using the vehicle for that purpose. If you are coming to Chicago on I-55 to attend a game at Soldier Field, you may drive a truck on Lake Shore Drive from I-55 to the Soldier Field parking lot.

I was involved in a traffic accident. What should I do?

It depends on whether the accident involved vehicle/property damage only, or whether there was personal injury as well. If the accident involved vehicle/property damage only, there is a further question of whether the damaged vehicle was attended or unattended.

  • If the accident involved vehicle/property damage only and damaged vehicle was attended: The drivers must exchange their names, vehicle owner’ names (if different), addresses, and vehicle registration numbers. They must do this at the scene of the accident. If the damage to any individual’s property appears to be in excess of $500, each party must come to a district station and file a written accident report. The report need not be made immediately, but it should be made within one day of the accident to allow sufficient time for the Chicago Police Department to forward it to the Illinois Department of Transportation within 10 days of the accident.
  • If the accident involved vehicle/property damage only, and the damaged vehicle/property was unattended: The driver of the attended vehicle must, at the time of the accident, either locate the owner or operator of the vehicle or other damaged property, or leave a conspicuous note on the damaged vehicle/property. The note must indicate the driver’s name, address, and registration number, and the vehicle owner’s name, if different from the driver’s. The driver then, without unnecessary delay, must notify the police, and, if the apparent damage to anyone’s vehicle/personal property appears to be in excess of $500, the driver must come to a district station and file a written accident report, as specified above.
  • If the accident involved injury to any person: The driver of any vehicle involved in the accident must render aid to anyone injured in the accident, if the injured party requests aid, or if it is clear that such aid is necessary.

I’m interested in purchasing a car with tinted windows. Is that legal?

It depends where the tint is applied. It is not legal in Chicago to have a tinted front windshield, or tinted side wings or windows immediately adjacent to each side of the driver. It is legal to have a tint on the uppermost portion of the front windshield, as long as the tint does not extend more than six inches down from the top of the windshield. It is also legal to have tinted side windows behind the driver, and a tinted rear window. NOTE: The Chicago ordinance on tinted windows differs from the Illinois statute, which allows for additional tinting depending on the degree of tint. The Chicago Police Department enforces the Chicago ordinance and not the Illinois statute.

What are some other ordinance provisions related to traffic and vehicles in Chicago? (Not a complete list of Chicago ordinance provisions. Not the official statutory language. Illinois statutes also apply.)

  • The speed limit is 30 mph on streets and 15 mph in alleys, unless otherwise posted.
  • No U-turn is permitted within 100 feet of an intersection.
  • No U-turn is permitted in the downtown area bounded by Michigan Avenue on the east, Wacker Drive on the north and west, and the Congress Parkway on the South.
  • There is no driving on a path, or in a lane, which is officially designated for bicycles.
  • A fire apparatus traveling in response to a fire may not be followed closer than 500 feet.
  • A block on which a fire apparatus has stopped in response to an alarm may not be entered.
  • A vehicle may not be left unattended unless the engine has been stopped and the igtnition key has been removed.
  • There is no parking within 15 feet of a fire hydrant.
  • There is no parking in an alley longer than the time necessary for the expeditious loading, unloading, pick-up, or delivery of materials.
  • A vehicle may have the following, supplemental lighting: one spot lamp; up to three auxiliary driving lamps on the front of the vehicle; up to two side cowl or fender lamps which emit a white or amber light; up to one running board courtesy lamp which emits a white or amber light.

What’s my parking ticket for?

If you have the code number, you can visit the Chicago Department of Revenue’s web site for a complete list of parking and compliance violations. Click on Parking Tickets & Payments

I can’t use my tickets to the Bulls game. Can I go down to the United Center and sell them on the street? I’m not looking to scalp anybody I just want to get back the ticket price and the broker fee I paid.

It is illegal to sell tickets on the street at or near any stadium, theater, or other place of public amusement, or in the Loop. These restrictions apply even if you are trying to sell the tickets at their printed price, or at a discount. You may never, sell your tickets for a higher price than the printed price on the ticket, no matter where you sell them. This means you cannot include any ticket broker fees you may have paid

I need to have my fingerprints taken. Can the Chicago Police Department help me?

It depends on why you need them. The Chicago Police Department will take your fingerprints if you:

  • are applying for a copy of your rap sheet.
  • are applying for an out-of-state medical license.
  • are applying for admission to the bar of Illinois or another jurisdiction.

If you need your fingerprints taken for one of these purposes, you can visit the Records Services Section. 3510 S. Michigan Ave.. Fingerprints are taken from 8:00 AM to 1:30 PM, Tuesday-Thursday.

The Chicago Police Department does not take fingerprints for:

  • Adoptions
  • Background checks
  • Board of Education
  • Employment
  • Federal agencies (Homeland Security, Housing-Section 8, Military,etc.)
  • Green Cards
  • Immigration
  • Insurance brokers
  • Passports
  • Real estate
  • Security Licenses
  • State agencies (Foster care, Illinois State Police, Public Guardian, etc.)
  • Stock brokers.

If you need your fingerprints taken for one of these purposes, you can find commercial vendors in your local telephone directory, or you can contact the State of Illinois at (815) 740-5160.

I was planning to buy my 9-year-old son an electric motor scooter. Is that legal in Chicago?

You can buy an electric scooter legally, but there are important restrictions as far as young people operating them.

With limited exceptions (which do not include scooters), motorized vehicles, even slow ones, can only be operated on roadways. They cannot be operated on sidewalks. No person under 16 years of age can operate a motorized vehicle on a roadway. That means, in effect, that a person under 16 can operate a motorized scooter on private property only, like a parking lot or a backyard. The property owner would have to consent to such activity.

A person 16 years or older can drive a motorized scooter on a public roadway, but it requires a driver’s license, liability insurance, and vehicle registration with the Secretary of State.

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