HPD tackles the Internet to recruit

June 23, 2008 10:14:51 PM PDT
When Todd Andrews of Northern Illinois was looking for a law enforcement job, he found out a lot about the Houston police from a blog."I can consider it to be a more personable outlet via the Web compared to traditional websites," Andrews said. "It answers basic questions concerning potential applicants who are curious about HPD."

The blog is the unique brain child of Mike McCoy, a senior officer with the Houston Police Department. It's one of the few blogs that show up in a search engine concerning the subject. Officer McCoy, who works in recruiting, says he wanted a way to go straight to the potential recruits.

VIDEO:
- Common questions Officer McCoy is asked
- What the police academy is like
- What the department is up against
- The pitch

"I think a lot of young people nowadays are on the Internet all the time," Officer McCoy told abc13.com. "They're always searching different career paths on the Internet. And I thought, if you blog and you YouTube, and you just put in keywords like 'The Houston Police Department,' not only will you get our website, but my blog is popping up now because I post every day on it."

The Houston Police Department Recruiting Blog has only been around since March but has already started a dialogue between an officer hungry department and possible recruits.

"I have my actual email address on there, where they can actually email me, rather than maybe ask an embarrassing question or, 'Hey, I'm not quite sure if I'm qualified to be a police officer,'" Officer McCoy said.

It's been widely reported in June 2008 that HPD has reached the 5,000 officer mark for the first time in three years. That's good news for the department, but still not good enough. There will need to be 6,400 officers before HPD reaches the national police staffing average.

There are several factors in the way of the department and its goal. For example, many officers in Houston are close to or at retirement age. Also, lots of possible recruits are overseas in the military fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan making recruitment difficult for law enforcement across the country. Plus, it's been reported that HPD is at a pay disadvantage compared to other agencies across Texas. (VIDEO: What the department is up against)

Eyewitness News has reported the department's starting salary is less than $30,000 a year. In Austin an officer's starting salary is $32,000 and it's more than $36,000 in Fort Worth. Dallas cops start around $41,000.

That's why McCoy says the department is offering a $12,000 hiring incentive and he created the blog.

"So I'm actually reaching out to our military folk overseas," he said. "I'm getting probably 15 to 20 emails per day now because of this blog, with questions about how do I become a police officer when I get out of the service?"

McCoy says the blog puts a human face online that gives potential recruits the prompt they need to look further at the department. At the same time, the Internet also cloaks the identity of the visitor allowing those interested in police work to ask questions anonymously. (VIDEO: Common questions Officer McCoy is asked)

Besides answering questions, McCoy knows he needs blog content that will keep the audience interested so he includes recent HPD TV commercials, pictures and even field reports like a recent trip to the police academy. (VIDEO: What the police academy is like)

Most importantly for HPD, the blog has a direct application link to become a Houston police recruit, plus someone who is willing to talk.

"The blog and McCoy's involvement gives a direct line of communication for anyone with a question, a voice is more important than a face in that regard," possible recruit Andrews told us. "Given the commitment towards serving the public as well as the dangers involved, I believe someone would not be prepared if they did not have concerns about becoming a police officer."

In Houston, those concerns are trying to be addressed. (VIDEO: The pitch)

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