Graduation and promotion day for HPD

April 22, 2009 12:29:41 PM PDT
Dozens of Houston police cadets were getting their badges Tuesday and will soon be hitting the streets. It's part of a graduation and promotion ceremony. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

One of those promotions is being particularly applauded by leaders in Houston's Asian community. It's the promotion of Lt. John H. Chen, a 27-year veteran of the force, to assistant chief. In the past, they've expressed anger over what they call a lack of representation.

In addition to Lt. Chen, there were five Asians graduating in Tuesday's ceremony at the police academy. While strides have been made in making sure that the Asian community is adequately represented, some say there is still a long way to go.

With an Asian population of six percent, Houston has more Asians than any other city in the south. It was roughly 200,000 during the last census and continues to be a growing segment of our community.

"I anticipate in the new census in 2010, it'll probably be close to 300,000," said former Houston city Councilmember Martha Wong.

As it becomes larger, Wong believes it's critical that city government and law enforcement, in particular, reflect that.

"And especially a chief, so that they can see that it's someone that looks like them, that they can relate to," said Wong.

Of the 21,000 city workers, more than 1,200 or 5.4 percent are Asian. Of the more than 5,000 Houston police officers, 234 -- less than one percent -- are Asian. Of the 1,000 cadet applicants, 53 are Asian.

"We try as much as we can to get Asians to join us," said Senior Officer Mike McCoy.

As the head of recruiting for HPD, McCoy says even though it can be challenging to break down cultural barriers, he believes the efforts to do so have been successful, in part because of the department's Asian recruiters.

"They go out to the events with us," said Officer McCoy. "We have one Asian recruiter that's been out to the Asian mall. He's out there every weekend and he talks to applicants out there. We've had pretty good luck."

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