Major expansion of DC police Cadet Corps program proposed

Ralph Ennis, right, commander of the D.C. police training academy and cadet program, stands with UDC Chief Ron Culmer III on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (WTOP/Kristi King)

Doubling down on the philosophy that community policing is best achieved with officers from the communities they serve, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is proposing to double the size of the police department’s Cadet Corps program in fiscal year 2021.

The $3.4 million plan, subject to council approval, would expand the program to hire 200 graduates of D.C. high schools to work part-time as uniformed civilian members of the police department while attending the University of the District of Columbia.

Of the cadets who have gone on to join the D.C. police over the past five years, 99% are still officers.

“And why not? They’re getting fantastic preparation, they’re going on to the University of the District of Columbia … and getting paid while you’re going — not incurring any debt while you’re there because the department is paying your tuition — and then you go into the (police) academy,” Bowser said Monday to a group of assembled cadets of the program.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, center, and police Chief Peter Newsham, far right, speak at the event on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (WTOP/Kristi King)

“It’s just a real win-win situation,” Bowser said.

The program hires, trains, pays and provides uniforms and equipment for cadets.

At a panel discussion on the program, cadet Joselin Salmeron, who reaches her one-year mark on April 1, said community policing can help dispel the negative perceptions of police that some people can have.

“We have certain events like Beat the Streets in the summer, where we can interact with not only youth, but people of the community and change their perception and show that we’re actually here to help,” Salmeron said.

Noting the level of poverty in some neighborhoods, Salmeron said coming from similar schools and communities can give officers insight into how to help.

“When we go into those communities, we know what services we can offer them to assist them, and we know the culture of the city itself,” Salmeron said.

Three-year cadet Quintin White also talked up community policing that might involve, for example, getting out of a squad car to throw a football around with kids.

“The police are actually here to help,” White said. “We’re not here just locking up anyone that we see — we’re also going to do our job, but we’re here to interact with you all.”

White said he hopes to achieve the rank of sergeant but added, “I want to work with the youth and give back to the community in the areas in which I grew up in the city.”

Currently, D.C. police have 3,811 sworn officers, with a goal of reaching 4,000.

Bowser’s funding proposal has to go through the whole council process. The D.C. Council votes twice on the budget, on May 13 and May 27.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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