The Houston Police Department Is "Calling All Veterans" To Apply
The Houston Police Department strives to be the finest law enforcement agency in the United States. It has the highest basic hiring prerequisites of all law enforcement agencies in Texas among them:
- 18 months of active duty military service with an honorable discharge, or
- 48 semester hours of college credit with a 2.0 grade point average, or
- 5 years of full-time law enforcement experience.
Veterans, guardsmen/guardswomen, and reservists serve in all ranks. And in September 2015, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) recognized HPD for its support of its military employees.
First-year officers can earn from $49,831 to $64,071, plus benefits. HPD recruiters have designed a process that enables out-of-town candidates to complete their applications in just one trip to Houston. On average, the complete recruiting process takes about 90 days.
A servicemember who has not finalized his or her service may apply. The candidate must provide a letter from his or her commander stating the approximate termination date and indicating that an honorable discharge is anticipated.
The HPD has more than 45 divisions. Job assignments include patrol, SWAT, homicide, narcotics, vice, helicopters, K9, bomb squad, dive team, auto theft, and gangs.
ABOUT THE TOWN
Houston has much to offer. The economy is booming, with an unemployment rate of less than 4 percent. The city has professional teams in football, baseball, basketball, and soccer. Galveston Island is just 60 miles south of downtown; prime hunting and fishing territory can be found less than 90 miles from downtown. Colleges and universities include Rice University, University of Houston, Texas Woman’s University, Texas Southern University, St. Thomas University, and Houston Baptist University. Junior colleges include San Jacinto College, Houston Community College, and the Lone Star College system.
FROM ARMY TO ASSISTANT CHIEF
Charles A. Vazquez, an assistant chief of police, served in the United States Army for nearly eight years before separating as a sergeant. “I joined through the Delayed Entry Program in 1984 and went to Basic Training in Fort Bliss, Texas, in May of 1985,” he said. “My initial MOS was 16D - Hawk Missile Crewmember. I was promoted from E-1 to E-2 before graduation from Basic/AIT. After that, I was stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany, for two years. I attained the rank of specialist E-4(p) during this time.
“I returned to Fort Bliss in November 1987. My MOS was being phased out, but during the remainder of my service in this MOS, I was promoted to Corporal (E-4). “In April 1989, I re-enlisted to change my MOS to 93C – Air Traffic Control Operator. After ATC school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, I was deployed to Seoul, South Korea, for 12 months on an unaccompanied tour. After that, I was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
“Thirty days after arriving in Fort Campbell, I was deployed to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, where I remained for nine months. I worked in the control tower at King Fahd International Airport. Just before the ground war began, I was deployed with my squad north of TAP Line Road, and helped to set up a tactical control tower at Campbell Rapid Refuel Point for the remainder of Desert Storm. After Desert Storm, I returned to Fort Campbell to finish out the remainder of my second four-year enlistment. I ended my service in December 1992.”
Vazquez joined the Houston Police Department in January 1993, but not as a police officer. “I actually joined as a civilian employee,” he said. “Prior to leaving the Army, I attended an air traffic control screening program for the Federal Aviation Administration in Oklahoma City. I needed a job in the interim before getting the call from the FAA, so I became a police dispatcher.
“The FAA started a hiring freeze shortly thereafter. A couple of police officers I was dispatching with talked me into applying to the Houston Police Academy. Making the commitment to apply was the best decision I ever made.”
Vazquez became a police cadet in August 1994 and a police officer in March 1995. He was promoted to sergeant in 2002, lieutenant in 2005, captain in 2011, and assistant chief in 2013.
“I oversee the Professional Development Command,” he said. “Divisions under my command include the Recruiting Division, Training Division (Police Academy), Employee Services (Human Resources), and Psychological Services Division. I have additional responsibilities which include chair of the Health and Safety Unit, chair of the Promotion Committee, chair of the Training Committee, member of the Leadership and Supervision Committee, member of the Critical Incident Review Board, liaison to the Houston Police Foundation, and president of the Hispanic Officer of the Year Committee.”
Vazquez has received four Chief of Police Commendations, three Assistant Chief of Police Commendations, 19 Supervisor Commendations, and 11 Citizen Commendations. He was also the 2000 Humble Area Chamber of Commerce Peace Officer of the Year and the One Hundred Club Officer of the Year 2001.
Vazquez credits much of his success at HPD to what he learned in the military. “My military experience has been invaluable to not only my career, but my life in general,” he said. “It taught me about discipline, hard work, and the ability to deal positively with adversity. At a young age, still in my teens, I was placed in leadership positions in which I supervised fellow soldiers who were older than me. This taught me about how important humility is to quality leadership.
“I never shied away from a challenge or a problem because it seemed insurmountable. The Army taught me that anything is possible if you are willing to put in the time and the effort to make it happen. It also instilled upon me that respect for the system is paramount in gaining respect from others. Although I miss the camaraderie of deployments that is part and parcel to the military, I have found that same dynamic in the police department.”
Vazquez also acquired a positive attitude in the military. “Without a doubt, the ability to stay positive in the most trying of situations is probably the greatest skill I learned,” he said. “No matter how tough the task or unpleasant the assignment, if you keep your eyes on the prize, you will be successful and inspire others to do the same. In turn, others will inspire you and the professionalism and success of your organization will be raised.”
He believes the HPD is a great place for veterans. “Basic skills acquired in the military – self-discipline, ethical behavior, pride in a job well done, taking care of your battle buddies, respect for diversity, and the ability to maintain your professionalism – are part and parcel to a police officer’s every day routine.”
Vazquez encourages people to follow their dreams. “First off, service to one’s country is the highest calling one can participate in,” he said. “I applaud and revere the service of people who choose to make the military a career.
“For those who want to follow other dreams, by best advice is ‘Go for it!’ If those dreams include serving as a police officer, you cannot find a finer organization to serve than the Houston Police Department.”
“The Sky Is the Limit!”
Austin Huckabee, a police officer in the HPD’s Crime Reduction Unit, Gang Division, spent eight years in the Army, separating as a captain. He served from 2007 to 2015 – four years on active duty and four years in the Army Reserve. He served as an Abrams tank platoon leader, a light infantry platoon leader, and a battle captain for a combined arms heavy cavalry battalion.
Huckabee joined the Houston Police Department in 2012, and worked as a patrol officer in the area where violent crime is the highest in the city. The Crime Reduction Unit proactively addresses crime in areas experiencing high rates of narcotics activity, violent crime, and gang activity.
In his three years of service, Huckabee has been awarded 12 letters of commendation and 2 Lifesaving Awards; and he has been named the Crisis Intervention Team’s Officer of the Quarter. Now he helps train HPD officers on how to address catastrophic injuries. In addition, he is preparing for future opportunities with HPD, having completed certificates in both basic and advanced SWAT.
Huckabee understands that his military experience helped him become part of the HPD. “My experiences as a combat leader made me resourceful, driven to get results, and goal-focused,” he said. “Those skills helped me find a career quickly with the department.
“My skills as a combat arms leader – which included handling large responsibilities regarding personnel and equipment, knowing down to the smallest detail any of my assigned areas of operation, and cross-cultural interpersonal skills – have all played a significant role in my career as a police officer. It is critical that I develop relationships with the hardworking families and business owners in my patrol areas, as these relationships can often play a critical part of developing information relevant to crimes committed near these residents.”
Another critical attribute learned in the military: Leadership. “I learned the significance of maintaining a command presence as a leader, a sense of professionalism and duty, and a commitment to finishing a job even if it was frustrating,” said Huckabee. “All these attitudes transfer very well to the law enforcement world, where instead of being committed to improving a neighborhood in a third world country 5,000 miles from home, I am committed to improving my own community and raising the standard of living for those folks that want to work hard and make an honest living.”
Huckabee believes that there is a spot for every servicemember in the HPD. “We are a very large department with over 45 divisions, offering specialized investigative and technical jobs for officers,” he said. “The odds are that you are in an MOS which will translate well into a job with our department. We are one of the most diverse cities in the country, and the cross-cultural skills you learned in the military will be well put to use here. We understand that veterans have already been tempered in a hard fire of tough schooling, long and stressful deployments in hostile environments, and technical educations of high standards, and we welcome those skills in a department committed to serving its citizens.”
He encourages servicemembers to keep an open mind when it comes to a post-military career. “I would suggest opening yourself to as many experiences as you can find,” he said, “as a broad education and skill set will open you to more job opportunities. It is also critical to network with as many people as possible, as letters of recommendation will go a long way.”
Huckabee knows that veterans are coveted by many businesses and organizations because they are valuable employees. “I would recommend to military folks looking to get out and start a new career to write down every skill you possess and every educational course you have taken,” he said. “Then take a step back and see how qualified you are for a wide variety of careers – not just ones related to your military job field. You have a degree of professionalism and experience that is going to be attractive to a wide variety of employers, so the sky is the limit.”
This article appeared in the November-December 2015 issue of Search & Employ Magazine