The smiling host of "Simply Helena" takes viewers behind the scenes of her daily life as a Berlin police trainee, from weapons to work-wear. The videos have pumped up some aspiring officers, but not everyone is happy.
A sinister drum beat sounds as black-and-white photos of police at a shooting range flash across the screen. Then, suddenly, a jingly tune with piano and bells rings out as a pink and blue theme takes over and we meet Helena, the blonde, smiley star of the Berlin police's new video blog.
"Simply Helena" ("Einfach Helena") has been running on the Berlin police's official YouTube channel since early December. Its four episodes have garnered more than 50,000 total clicks to date, as well as both praise and criticism for the social media recruitment attempt.
A link to apply to join the Berlin police is included prominently under each video.
More women in the force
Berlin Police President Barbara Slowik described the initiative as a "push for more women," German news agency DPA reported. Slowik recently told Germany's Bild daily that women make up around 20 percent of the force.
Slowik also said the police were trying to target a younger, social-media-savvy generation.
Slowik, who took over as police president in April 2018, has been reforming police training procedures following criticism of the process.
A Berlin police spokeswoman was not able to provide an exact breakdown on the number of women in the force. But "we're always hoping that more women will join the police," the spokeswoman told DW. "In light of that, there is definitely room for improvement."
Police trainee 'WOW moments'
In each episode, 29-year-old police recruit Helena speaks directly to viewers, sharing her enthusiasm for being a police trainee and providing an inside look at where she is in the training process.
"I can tell you, you'll never have a boring day," she says in the introductory video. "Every day is different, and that's what's so nice about being a police officer."
The camera then accompanies her behind the scenes of her day-to-day with fellow trainees, from getting fitted for her police uniform to her first shooting lesson.
"That was just a WOW moment," Helena says as she looks at herself in the mirror in uniform for the first time.
She later walks the viewer through the basics of weapons training at a shooting range. "I had no idea how much strength I would need, how much exactly the trigger weight was, how far back I needed to pull with my finger … It was definitely fun," she says outside the training hall.
Another video goes through the basic uniform components. Each episode ends with outtakes.
From motivational to exaggerated
The short videos, 4 to 9 minutes long, are managed by the police's social media team, the spokeswoman told DW. A member of the team was not available for comment.
In the videos, Helena describes how when she was waiting to start her police traineeship, she scoured the internet for any videos to give her information — to no avail.
Users are encouraged to leave comments below the video, and the responses range from critical to questioning to gushingly positive.
"I'm really disturbed that the Berlin police permit this kind of advertising/self-promotion," user S.M. wrote under an episode. "I find the videos affected and exaggerated."
"Pure motivation," wrote user Vannic just underneath. "I keep getting more excited to take the aptitude test! Please, more than one video a week!"
Many users also ask for tips for the application process that candidates have to pass to start a traineeship.
Some users have pointed out that "Einfach Helena" seems to have styled its opening directly after Bibis Beauty Palace, a widely popular fashion and makeup series run by German video blogger Bianca Heinicke.
"Hello my dears, and welcome to my new video," Helena says at the start of each police video — just like Bianca says in each of her episode openings.
Changing times for tattoos
Berlin recently reversed a rule banning tattoos from the police force. Each state police force creates its own regulations for tattoos.
Helena's arm tattoos have been a focal point for many users and German media outlets, since it has only been recently that Berlin police changed their rules to allow tattooed people to join the force.
According to the Berlin police website, the force is looking to hire some 340 new enforcement officers in 2019 and 440 in 2020. On average, 10 to 15 applicants are needed to fill one police vacancy. While the police have a high number of applicants each year, many do not make it through the various aptitude tests to be offered a training spot. They have had to extend their application deadlines repeatedly in past years.