The downturn in the economy has created an opportunity for the Houston Police Department to bolster its ranks.
A year ago, the Houston Police Department could barely muster enough recruits to fill a 70-seat academy class. Now with 1,000 applicants in the pipeline, HPD is benefiting from the nation's [worsening] economy, and so are several other police agencies in the Houston region.
Since September, HPD has seen a steady uptick in applications, jumping from 280 to nearly 800 last month, according to police records. The Harris County Sheriff's Office also has seen a noticeable increase in the number of recruits taking the initial hiring test. The department usually draws about 50 people, but the number has doubled in the past few months, sheriff's officials said.
"I think a lot of people know that government jobs are a place where they can get pretty steady employment and the benefits are good," said Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt.
The ample applicant pool is a major turnaround from a couple of years ago when many agencies struggled to find qualified recruits and had to compete with each other to attract potential officers. Last year, HPD began offering $12,000 bonuses to lure candidates to its academy.
Hurtt's goal to boost the city's police ranks by more than 1,000 officers by 2010 will likely be much easier to reach.