Becoming a Police Officer in Houston
Gone are the days of the Wild Midwest when lawmakers used to saddle up and chase down bank robbers. More than a century later, things haven’t changed that much. Just like the old days, today, Houston’s Finest are both physically and mentally adept in dealing with a range of crimes and unpredictable scenarios on a daily basis.
Policing the Population
With a city of more than two million, Houston has its fair share of crimes. In a typical month, let’s take February 2014 for instance, there were 1,426 incidents of violent crime. These included murder and robbery, and 8,129 counts of non-violent criminal acts such as burglary and auto-theft.
The Houston Police Department comprises of 5,400 officers and careers in the force are quite popular among the local population. With an annual budget reaching almost $700 million a year, it is recognized as the fifth largest police force in the United States. Consequently, the Houston Police Department has put into place a comprehensive set of procedures and guidelines for recruiting the most capable candidates.
Basic HPD Officer Requirements
The requirements you need to fulfill in order to pursue HPD careers are as follows:
Studied in an accredited college or a university and earned 48 semester credit hours, along with a minimum GPA of 2.0
Completed at least 18 months of active duty service in the US armed forces and been honorably discharged
Served for a minimum of five years as a TCOLE-licensed peace officer. Being licensed by an equivalent organization in another state is also acceptable.
Be between the ages of 20 ½ and 44 years. However, you should have turned 21 or not be 45 years or older before graduating from the training academy.
You have to be a US citizen, and never been convicted of a Class A misdemeanor or a Class B misdemeanor in the last 10 years.
You must pass a series of tests which include reading comprehension as well as a Physical Agility Test. The Physical agility test is mandatory as officers are required to be active in the field. You will have to show that you can:
Run 1.5 miles under 17 ½ minutes.
Do a 300 meter-sprint in no more than 78 seconds.
Jump to a height of at least 16.5 inches.
Drop and do 15 (push-ups).
Complete an agility run lasting for 20 seconds.
Demonstrate Weapons Compatibility by making 6 trigger pulls with each hand.
You should also possess a valid driver’s license and have proof of liability insurance.
Having a stable credit history is a must for becoming an HPD officer.
You also have to meet a set of medical requirements before being accepted into the Houston Police Department.
Hearing – The HPD wants to see whether you are able pick up a range of sound frequencies from 500 hertz up to 6,000 megahertz, at an average loss of no greater than 30 decibels. If you wear a hearing aid, you will still be tested. However you will have to come up to the same testing standards.
Primary Vision – Good eyesight is crucial for an HPD officer. Thus, you are expected to have a 20/20 vision unassisted, and if you wear lenses or specs, it should be correctable up to 20/20. Monocular vision is a big No No!
Color Detection – As an applicant in the HPD, you should be able to appreciate all the colors of life. You have to be able to make out the full color spectrum in order to be considered, that too without any color vision correction aids.
Seizures and Diabetes – Make sure you don’t have a history of uncontrolled seizures or hypoglycemic episodes, as this would be a deal breaker.
HPD Application Process
There are seven different stages through which you will have to go through in order to be fully evaluated for a position in the training academy of the Houston Police Department.
Phase 1 – Submit all the required documents and have an appointment scheduled
Phase 2 – Be tested for reading and comprehension
Phase 3 – Undertake the Physical Agility Test
Phase 4 – Sit for the Polygraph Exam as well as for the Final interview
Phase 5 – Undergo a background investigation
Phase 6 – Pass the psychological as well as the medical exam
Phase 7 – Recruitment will be pending a final review as well as an approval from the Police Chief
The Training Academy Experience
Training is an important component in the preparation of future police officers. The Houston Police Department has put into place a six-month intensive training program that builds on both the academic and physical capabilities of the cadets.
So expect nothing less than a military grade boot-camp. You will not be allowed to enroll in any other educational courses, nor hold any form of employment during this period. As there are no residential arrangements at the academy, you will have to travel or relocate.
If you successfully graduate from the academy, you will be put on probation for an additional six months. During this time, you will be working under the Field Training Officer Program that lasts from 12 to 16 weeks. After this, you may find yourself making your way through the streets of Houston and keeping them safe.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Part of the Houston Police Department?
The first step in becoming a Police Officer is to apply for the vacancy. The application process is long and can take up to 90 to 180 days to complete all the steps. The candidate will be contacted by a recruiter to begin the pre-screening phase, which can take around 10 days. Those who get shortlisted must visit Houston to appear for the Physical Agility Test, Comprehension Test, Initial Interview, Polygraph exam, Fingerprinting, and the Post-polygraph Interview. Once the panel conducts your background check, you will be expected to visit Houston again to take the psychological and medical exams. Once you clear all these stages, you will then be confirmed for employment at the Houston Police Department.
What Are the Requirements to Become a Part of the Houston Police Department?
The applicants have to meet a number of requirements in order to be shortlisted for employment at the Houston Police Department. First, the applicant needs to be a US citizen. Second, he/she must have one of the following: a minimum of 48 credit hours from an accredited university or college, at least 5 years of employment as a licensed peace officer, or at least 2 years of active duty in the US armed forces with an honorable discharge. The applicant must also possess a valid driver’s license, should be between 21 to 44 years of age, and should not be convicted of any felony charges. Moreover he/she should have a stable employment background, family background and credit history and should be able to clear all tests and interviews.
How Much Can I Make after Becoming Employed at the Houston Police Department?
Police officers receive decent compensation since law enforcement is a high risk profession. According to the Houston Police Department's website a Police Officer's annual salary range is $49,917- $65,825 while a Senior Police Officer earned between $67,022 and $73,388. There are other benefits associated with the job too like health insurance, retirement plans and paid leaves.
Even while under training with the Houston Police Academy, you will be paid. A Hiring Incentive sum of $5,000 will be given to you in two stages. The first half will be awarded to you following the successful completion of the first month of training, and the second half after graduation.
Your first post as a Police Officer will net you an income in the range of $44,007 to $66,098 in the first year. However, as a cadet and during the probation period, you will be getting a fixed pay of $35,164. This band will increase to the following levels in subsequent years and promotions:
Sr. Police Officer – From $68,660 to $73,768
Police Sergeant - $73,218 to $87,421
Police Lieutenant - $81,742 to $96,703
Police Captain – Between $95,140 and $109,094
Interestingly, those higher academic qualifications may help as the HPD gives additional pay incentives.
Doctoral Degree - $8,840
Master's Degree - $6,240
Bachelor's Degree - $3,640
* All the above mentioned figures have been taken from the official Houston Police Dept’ website.
However, your degree needs to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools or the respective state’s educational board to qualify.
After serving for a period of three years, you can become eligible for roles that may involve flying helicopters, working in SWAT teams, working with dogs as part of the K-9 unit, as well as riding horses and motorcycles. If you always admired cops on TV shows, the Houston Police Department will give you the opportunity to work alongside some of the bravest men and women on the force.
Frequently Asked Question(s)
Q:Is physical fitness a prerequisite to applying to the hpd careers?
A:Yes, physical fitness is an important part of the hiring process at the Houston police dept. The jobs associated with the HPD can be physically challenging so they have set specific benchmarks for physical fitness. These include the ability to run 1.5 miles in under 17.5 minutes and jumping to a height of at least 16.5 inches. For more physical requirements please visit the Houston Police Dept. website.
Q:What are the dos and don'ts when looking to have an hpd career?
A:To be a police officer with the hpd you must; have a minimum bachelor's degree, be physically fit, be a minimum of 21 years of age, free of any drug charges, a U.S. citizen and psychologically healthy. To have an hpd career, you mustn't; be color blind, have an invalid driver's license, be convicted of family violence, be dishonorably discharged from military service or be on probation for a crime.
Q:Are there any minimum requirements for becoming an HPD sergeant?
A:To become a HPD sergeant, you must have completed at least 48 credit hours from an accredited institution, you must be over the age of 20 and below the age of 44, you must also have a US Citizenship and 5 years of experience as a full-time employed peace officer. More information about the requirements is available on the official web page of the Houston Police Department.
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