CHICAGO — The Chicago Fire Department is down 400 lieutenants and chiefs among their current ranks, according to its union Local 2, and those numbers won’t be changing for the better anytime soon.
Firefighters and paramedics hoping to take the lieutenants and battalion chiefs exam this week were unable to due to technical issues. The test was indefinitely postponed.
Not since 2009 has the promotional opportunity exam been given. About 1,600 CFD candidates were scheduled to take it starting Monday.
The exam is given by a third-party vendor as part of a multi-million dollar contract with the city. The contract was in place before Mayor Lori Lightfoot took office. The city paid the vendor $1.4 million to administer the test.
Problems arose with computer issues. Candidates started the test but more than 1,000 waited up to 10 hours. They were then sent home and told to come back Tuesday. But early Tuesday it was decided the test was canceled completely.
Because of the current staffing shortage, some existing lieutenants and paramedics have been forced to work extraordinary long shifts for months on end. Long shifts can leave the first responders physically and mentally exhausted to the detriment of themselves and the citizens they serve.
A department spokesman told WGN News Wednesday the Chicago Fire Department expects a problem-free test with an environment where applicants can perform to their best "... which is why we require vendors to ensure their equipment is vigorously tested to prevent technical issues and any undue burden caused to firefighters devoting their time to participate, and those who cover their shifts. The City is working diligently with the vendor to remediate any issues with the testing systems and to resume the exams as quickly as possible.”
Jim Tracy is Local 2’s president. He called it unacceptable and said the whole thing should be scrapped.
“The mayor is going to have to fix it,” he said. “The whole thing is tainted. … It’s ridiculous.”
A new test could take at least six months to reschedule. The union said even if everything goes correctly to grade the tests and start the promotion process, it could be two years down the road.
A spokesperson person for the mayor’s office told WGN she expects the company to absorb 100% of the cost to give it again, but it is unclear when that will be.