Follow-Up of the Opportunities for Civilianization in the Chicago Fire Department Audit

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed a follow-up to its January 2016 audit of opportunities for civilianization in the Chicago Fire Department (CFD). Based on the Department’s response, OIG concludes that CFD has partially implemented corrective actions related to the audit findings.

The purpose of the January 2016 audit was to identify positions held by uniformed members at CFD that could instead be filled by civilians. Our audit found that CFD,

  • assigned 35 uniformed members to positions that did not require firefighting or emergency medical response training and experience, and could save an estimated $1.2 million annually by civilianizing 34 and eliminating 1 of these positions; and
  • provided at least 13 reasonable accommodations related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) either informally or without the required approval of the City’s Disability Officer.

Based upon the results of our audit, we recommended that CFD,

  • civilianize 34 specific positions and eliminate the position of commissary liaison;
  • undertake a comprehensive assessment of all uniformed member assignments to identify further opportunities for civilianization;
  • assess temporary assignments before filling them with uniformed members, to determine if they could be performed by civilians;
  • develop a method to identify, track, and routinely review all temporary assignments to ensure that uniformed members are returned to operations in a timely manner, and that temporary assignments have not passively defaulted or otherwise evolved into permanent positions;
  • document job descriptions and duties for all positions, and ensure that the Department of Human Resources (DHR) and the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) are informed of the actual responsibilities of uniformed members, not just their titles; and
  • comply with the City’s Reasonable Accommodation Policy by ensuring that all ADA reasonable accommodation requests are submitted to DHR’s Disability Officer for review and approval or denial.

In its response to the audit, CFD described a number of corrective actions it would take.

In January 2017, OIG inquired with CFD regarding the status of the corrective actions the Department committed to in response to OIG’s audit and any other actions it may have taken. Due to concerning inconsistent personnel recordkeeping by CFD, OIG had to make multiple inquiries to obtain complete information on the status of the Department’s corrective actions and to seek clarity on some of the responses. 

Based on CFD’s follow-up response, OIG concludes that the Department has partially implemented the recommended corrective actions to address the original audit’s first finding respecting civilianization, and has fully implemented the recommended corrective action to address its second finding respecting required approvals of ADA accommodations. We acknowledge that CFD’s recently expired (but currently applicable) collective bargaining agreement with Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2 poses barriers to civilianizing certain positions; however, we urge the Department to continue its work with DHR, OBM, and the Department of Law (DOL) to civilianize the positions identified in the original audit.