Many of you may be familiar with the “Exploring” program – a program run by the Boy Scouts of America that works to connect students, aged fourteen through twenty-one, to the careers that most interest them. The Peoria Police Department has been partnered with the Exploring program for several years, however there hasn’t been anything that bridges the young adults from the Explorers program into an actual career in law enforcement. At least that was the case until the Peoria Police Department developed the Police Cadet program which is currently in its pilot phase with a goal of expanding the program to 10 cadets in early 2017.
The Police Cadet program has been established to encourage, recruit, train and prepare young adults, from within the local community, for a future career in law enforcement with the Peoria Police Department. The Cadet program, in its pilot phase, began with three alums of their Exploring program: Tom Keenan, Zaire Doss and Kelsey Terrell.
We were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with them earlier this week and talk about the Police Cadet program. All three clearly have an interest in making a difference in Peoria, but when asked specifically what attracted him to the Police Cadet program, Zaire shared with us, “I was an Explorer for three years prior to this. I really wanted to have a career where what I did mattered and I could make a big difference. Initially I thought that might lead me more towards a military career, but after the Explorers and now that I’m in the Cadets program, I feel that I can have a more direct effect on people’s lives by being in law enforcement.”
The Police Cadet program is structured as a progressive, two-year program that rotates Cadets through several different departments of the Peoria Police, with each rotation lasting for three months. Outside of these rotations, the Cadets are also encouraged to attend college, with the Peoria Police Department reimbursing students up to 60 credit hours at the Illinois Central College tuition rate. The Cadets responsibilities vary based on the unit and schedules are flexible to accommodate college classes. Speaking of the Cadet program as a whole, Tom adds “the Police Cadet program is a great way to get involved, volunteer and improve your community.”
The Cadets are also a key part of the Peoria Police Department’s implementation of a more effective community policing model. By offering opportunities for youth to explore policing, the department is establishing a more relatable presence in the community. Assistant Chief Lisa Snow explains, “The Cadet Program allows us to teach young people that there is tremendous value in having a close relationship with the community. We want the Cadets to understand far more than the daily operations of the department, to understand and believe that one of the most important functions of policing is to engage with the citizens and work towards a common goal of improving the quality of life in our community. We feel that instilling these values in the Cadets will make them better officers and ultimately role models for generations of officers in the future.”
The Peoria Police Cadet program has bridged the career gap for these three students, now, all three have been able to identify their ideal law enforcement career:”: Tom sees himself as a patrol officer working near troubled youth; Zaire aims to be a detective or work in the Target Offenders unit; and Kelsey says, “I always wanted to be a juvenile detective growing up so I hope to be an officer in the juvenile or traffic unit“ As Explorers they were able to learn about law enforcement careers, but as Cadets, they have been brought together to work towards a common goal: shaping their own futures along with the futures of the communities they serve.
To learn more about the Peoria Police Cadet program please contact Lieutenant Michael Boland, and if you’d like to learn more about the Boy Scouts Exploring program, please contact Jennie Shollenberger.