Compared to the Metropolitan Police in the UK or the NYPD in the US, the 27,000-strong Hong Kong Police Force is of equal, if not superior, international status and reputation.
With the safety and stability of Hong Kong society at stake, it is important for the force to ensure sufficient manpower. To meet staff requirements, the force applied to recruit probationary inspectors when the general civil-service recruitment freeze was still in place last year. As a result, more than 5,000 applications flooded in for 50 vacancies for the position of probationary inspector.
"We analyse manpower requirements based on the existing staff situation, projected wastage as well as major infrastructure developments, such as the West Kowloon reclamation, East Rail extension and Shenzhen Bay Port area, to plan ahead for recruitment targets," says Ng Lok-chun, chief inspector, personnel wing, recruitment division, Hong Kong Police Force.
Encouraging research figures reflect growing enthusiasm from budding policemen, and 105 additional probationary inspectors are expected on board later this year. "There are currently more than 2,000 inspectorate officers. Apart from managing turnover rates, we also analyse the socio-economic situation to formulate recruitment strategy," Mr Ng notes. "The keen competition for talent amongst disciplined forces, government departments and the private sector is also a consideration. We must step up measures to attract aspiring individuals."
The force's latest initiatives include a police mentorship programme (PMP), which involves senior police officers acting as mentors for university students to share their work and life experiences and to explain career options and opportunities. Recruitment promotions are also implemented via various channels such as the media, schools and the Internet.
Packages including monthly salaries ranging from HK$27,980 to HK$56,335, generous housing schemes and ongoing local and overseas training opportunities surpass any offers currently available in the private sector. "All this is particularly attractive to young graduates," Mr Ng emphasises, but adds that the key attraction is still the diverse and challenging nature of the job. "There are many job functions, offering unlimited horizontal and vertical development," he remarks.
Best in class
In a bid to recruit only the cream of the crop, the selection process may take as long as four months. Applicants are shortlisted via an initial screening process. Suitable candidates are then invited to take a written examination. Those who pass all five exam papers proceed to an extended interview, which comprises a self-introduction, an impromptu talk, a group discussion, management exercises, a summary presentation and leadership exercises. Candidates are assessed in groups of eight at a time, of which only two on average go through to the final interview.
With the aim of becoming a competitive employer, the force has recently put in place a structured career path for junior inspectors, offering probationary inspectors a clear career path to follow, and helping them lay a solid foundation for future development.
The plan starts with 36 weeks of foundation training at the Police College where, through practical exercises, new recruits learn all the essentials for carrying out their future duties as inspectors and competent leaders.
Upon completion of the Standard I Examination, probationary inspectors that have "passed out" are assigned to become patrol sub-unit commanders of police stations where their leadership and management skills are put to the test and they are responsible for a range of duties. "This is a basic frontline experience that helps them reflect on their career aspirations," Mr Ng remarks.
Also on the agenda is a nine-week standard criminal investigation course to be completed within the first three to four years of service, followed by a mandatory posting to the divisional investigation unit.
"Probationary inspectors may opt for different functions later in their careers, but the reason why this is made mandatory is to ensure that junior inspectors acquire the necessary fundamental knowledge and skills for uniform branch operations and crime investigation during their foundation years to meet career development needs and posting requirements," Mr Ng says.
Upon successful completion of the three-year probation period and passing the Standard II Examination, probationary inspectors are confirmed as inspectors and can choose to enter the uniform branch, criminal investigation department or other specialised units, depending on individual capability and aspirations. Mr Ng stresses that each branch faces different challenges, but offers similar levels of job satisfaction. "Further promotion opportunities depend not on postings but on ability and performance," he says.
While the Police Public Relations Branch helps build a positive image and showcases the force's professionalism to the general public, a study is being conducted to identify key factors that attract young people to the force as a career. Results are yet to be released but a range of recruitment exercises are already in the pipeline.
Following the success of a career information day held in July, a recruitment day is scheduled for 18 August at The Police College in Aberdeen. Activities on the day will include career talks, sharing sessions and an exhibition. Participants will be able to obtain recruitment information, submit applications and undergo initial screening.
Mr Ng advises prospective candidates wanting to join the force to be well prepared for a lengthy recruitment process and not to be discouraged by it. "Only one out of a hundred applicants can get through," he remarks. "But those who have a passion for the job, a commitment to serve society and the right mindset will ultimately find themselves pursuing a rewarding career."