A rise in complaints about police handling of protests and demonstrations had not made positions in the force any less popular with job hunters, said the chief inspector at a recruitment event held yesterday.
Some 1,600 applicants attended Police Recruitment Day at police headquarters in Wan Chai, 600 fewer than at last year's event. Chief Inspector Matthew Mak Bo-yin was confident that the police force would meet the target for the 2013-14 fiscal year - 990 constables and 210 inspectors.
The number of applicants varied along with the number of graduates and others in the workforce, he explained.
"We have been doing pretty well so far," Mak said, adding that the recruitment division had already recruited 45 inspectors and 390 constables.
Recently student activists have accused police officers of abusing their power at a protest against Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, adding to the rising number of complaints about police behaviour at protests.
Applicant Liu Man Lok said he did not believe the majority of Hongkongers were losing confidence in police service.
"Though some Hongkongers are dissatisfied with the police force, I think it's the prejudice of certain people," Liu said.
Fellow applicant Keith Au Yeung Wai-kit said the police should be open and tolerant when dealing with protesters.
"Hong Kong enjoys freedom of expression. So they all have the right and the freedom to demonstrate," Au Yeung said.
He added that the police, as members of the civil service, were politically neutral, and had the "professional mindset" to do "what they have to do" when dealing with those protesting against the government.
As a number of police officers recruited in the 1980s were reaching retirement age, the force would need to prepare for those vacancies, Mak said.
"On average the recruitment division has received 16,000 applications a year in the past couple of years, which is enough to meet our needs."
Mak said the force was looking for people with good communications skills and emotional control.
About 20 to 30 per cent of the applicants were female. One of these, Iris Lui Pui-shan, said women had advantages as they had a "better sense of empathy and understanding".
"After all, policing is a job that is really people-oriented," said Lui, who recently graduated from Hong Kong Polytechnic.
The event provided initial screening and group interviews. Successful applicants will move on to further selection procedures including basic law and physical fitness tests.
The successful applicants could start their training at Police College in October.
Aside from recruitment events, online applications are available throughout the year.