Police recruitment drive continues in force
WITH STORIES OF rising street crime still making the headlines, it would have been a relief to many when the government announced its decision to exempt the police force from its civil service recruitment ban.
The government in April last year announced an across-the-board recruitment freeze in an effort to reduce the number of civil service staff by 10 per cent by 2006/07. But in October it lifted the ban on the police, paving the way for the force to add 230 officers to its ranks, which now total more than 27,000.
A spokeswoman for the Security Bureau at the time said the exemption would apply last financial year. But according to Chief Inspector (administration and support) Joseph Au-yeung, only 129 of those positions were filled by the end of the financial year to March, leaving another 101 posts to be allocated.
'We have identified a pool of potential candidates to fill the other positions and we are processing applications. So, we hope to have filled the majority of the quota soon. As to whether we will get another quota for this year, I'm not sure. Once we have hired the 230, the force will review our requirements and decide whether to put in another request for an exemption,' said Chief Inspector Au-yeung, who has been with the force for 15 years.
He insisted there was no shortage of men and women on the front line, despite a report saying the force had asked the government for another 380 officers and pointing out the 'natural wastage' of about 800 officers last year.
'There are enough constables on the beat, so the shortage will be met through cutting the number of support and administration staff, not by cutting people on the front line,' he said, adding that officers would never have to do double shifts to make up the shortfall in manpower.
Despite the limits on hiring and doubts over whether the force will be exempted from the recruitment freeze this financial year, the police website says candidates can apply all year round.
And they do, in their thousands. For the year to March, the force received 7,893 applications, 2,721 for the position of inspector and 5,172 for that of constable. Last year, eight inspectors (including two internal promotions) and 121 constables were appointed.
The year before, 1,859 people applied to become inspectors and 4,398 to become constables. About 565 constables were employed that year and 26 inspectors.
Surprisingly, the huge number of applications did not deter the force from closing its last walk-in centre in Admiralty on April 1.
Chief Inspector Au-yeung said the move had been a natural progression as people were now using the internet to apply for a job or were opting to send their applications in the post.
The lack of a human interface at the initial inquiry stage did not perturb him either, as the force has upgraded its recruitment website and has set up a hotline to handle inquiries. It also responds to e-mail questions.
'Closing the centre has saved people time as they no longer have to wait to speak to one of our officers when applying. The internet is more convenient and we have found that it allows us to process applications quicker, even the thousands we receive,' he said.
'Those who get through the first stage are invited to our reception office, where they undergo basic procedures like the eyesight and height and weight test, and have to produce proof of their academic qualifications. This office is manned by some of those who were at the walk-in centre, while the others were deployed back on the front line.'
With such fierce competition, the force is in the enviable position of being able to pick the cream of the crop, but Chief Inspector Au-yeung said academic qualifications alone would not win applicants jobs. Their performance during the assessment process is critical.
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The police force accepts applications all year.
The force has been exempt from the civil service recruitment freeze and was allowed to hire 230 people last year. It had asked the government for 380 positions.
The force insists there is no shortage of men and women on the beat and that double shifts, for example, are not necessary.
A good performance in the assessment exercises is more important than academic results.
Statistics show most applicants have more than the academic requirements outlined by the force. Most inspector-to-be have degrees even though they need only two A-levels and three HKCEE passes to apply.
Applications must be made online or by post as the last walk-in centre was closed in April.