How to Become a Police Officer in Houston
Houston, Texas is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation and has a population of over 2.3 million people.1 Houston has a higher-than-average crime rate compared to the US overall, but a lower-than-average crime rate for a city of its size.2 Approximately 5,200 sworn officers work for the Houston Police Department, helping keep crime rates low.3 The process of entering the Houston police force is described in detail below.
Houston Police Officer Requirements
Like any major city, the Houston Police Department has a number of strict requirements for police candidates. All applicants looking to work in law enforcement in Houston must:
- Be a US citizen
- Be at least 21 years old at the date of hire
- Have a valid driver’s license with a clean driving record
- Have at least 48 semester hours of credit from an accredited college or university OR a minimum of two years of active duty in the US military with a honorable discharge OR at least five years experience as a peace officer licensed by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) or an equivalent licensing agency from another state
- Not have any felony charges or class B misdemeanors
- Not have any tattoos that cannot be covered by the city police uniform
Aspiring police recruits who meet the requirements above must pass a number of physical and mental examinations. The first step is a reading comprehension test followed by a physical agility test. After these tests are passed, candidates will then have to submit to a polygraph test, which precedes a psychological and medical exam. The final step before being admitted to the Houston Police Academy is an interview and a review of the candidate’s ability to work as a Houston cop.
For more information, see 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our homepage. Once ready to apply for a position at the HPD, application information can be found at the Houston Police Department Career page.
Houston Police Training Academy
Once candidates have met all of the requirements listed above, they may be invited to recruit training at the Houston Police Training Academy. The academy curriculum consists of six months of intense academic and physical training as well as tactical strategy and firearm training. Once recruits complete the training, graduated officers will complete a six-month probationary period and will be assigned to a Field Training Officer (FTO) for 12 to 16 weeks. Typically, a new recruit will be assigned to patrol as his or her first active duty on the force.
Houston Police Department Information
The HPD is divided into 13 patrol divisions, which are further divided into districts that have various beats. All Houston police stations are operated and staffed 24 hours a day. Additionally, there are 29 storefront HPD locations that are also found throughout the city, although they are open normal business hours only.
The Houston Police Department also has a Special Operations Unit that consists of seven operational units that include Auto Theft, Crime Lab, Identification, Property, Robbery, Special Operations, and Vice. Within this Special Units group, there are specialized sub-categories that are assigned to Special Unit officers. These officers work in designated assignments such as City Hall Detail, Bike Patrol, Tactical Unit, Patrol, Mounted Patrol Division, DRT Unit, Special Events Unit, and Special Response Group.
The Houston Police Department has always focused on strengthening ties with the local community. In fact, their Community Service Division dates back to the 1970s. One of the city’s most successful initiatives is the Positive Interaction Program (PIP), which holds monthly meetings that feature speakers from the different divisions such as Burglary and Theft, Homicide, K-9, Helicopters, and so on. The aim of the program is to explain to residents how the divisions work and how they can be best utilized by the community in need of help if the time arises.
Department Contact Information
Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook
Salaries for the Houston Police Department can vary depending on experience and education. Recruits and probationary officers earn an annual salary of $42,000.4 After training and one year of service, officers earn an annual salary of $49,917; after two years, $55,041; and after three years, $56,419.4 The department offers educational incentive pay as well; officers with a bachelor’s degree earn an additional $3,640 per year; officers with a master’s degree, an additional $6,240; and officers with a doctoral degree, an additional $8,840.4 The average annual salary for a Houston patrol officer is $65,070.5 Officers receive benefits such as health and life insurance, generous paid time off, and tuition reimbursement. Police officers also participate in the city’s defined benefit pension plan, which includes options for early retirement.
The Houston Police Department is continually recruiting qualified candidates to join the force. Overall, jobs growth for cops in Texas is expected to reach 16.4% through 2026, equating to 1,045 new jobs per year.6 For more information on current Houston law enforcement positions, take a look at our state job board page.
- Texas Fraternal Order of Police – The Texas Fraternal Order of Police provides professional development and benefits to active and retired law enforcement officers statewide.
- Houston Police Union – The Houston Police Union is the bargaining unit for uniformed police officers in Houston and is one of the largest police unions in the US.
1. Data USA, Houston, TX: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/houston-tx/
2. US News & World Report, Best Places to Live, Houston, TX: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/texas/houston/crime
3. Houston Police Department: https://www.houstontx.gov/police/
4. Houston Police Department Recruiting: http://www.hpdcareer.com/index.html
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wages, Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_26420.htm
6. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm