With homicide up 13% this year, according to D.C. police data, the city is taking steps to encourage more young people to join the police force and invest in keeping their communities safe.
Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Robert Contee announced the D.C. police is re-launching its High School Cadet Program, which provides training, mentoring and up close experience for high school students interested in becoming police officers.
The program, previously cut because of budget constraints, also pays teens $17 an hour for part-time work for the District’s police department.
The program is seen as a pathway from high school to the police force, with tuition to the University of the District of Columbia Community College paid along the way.
In addition to college credits paid for by the city, students who graduate from the high school cadet program and go on to the D.C. Cadet Corps program also receive a salary starting around $35,000 a year. From there, they are fast-tracked into the police academy and a career in the Metropolitan Police Department.
Chief Contee began his career as a young cadet. Speaking at an event at Ballou High School, he said the decision to join changed his life, and he wants to see that for other young DC residents.
“We are going to make sure that we invest in you because you are important and you matter to the citizens of the District of Columbia,” Contee said.
Bowser is also proposing a new bill to expand the eligibility requirements for the MPD Cadet Corps program. Currently only graduates of D.C. high schools can apply, but the new legislation would allow D.C. residents who graduated from schools outside the District to be eligible.
Contee said the cadet program is an important tool for recruiting members of the community into the police force. Right now, 97% of participants are people of color, and nearly half are women.
“The expansion of the Cadet Corps program will ensure that we are recruiting members of our community who will be the best people to come, to stay, to learn and grow here at MPD,” said Contee.
Contee acknowledged that community mistrust, rising homicide rates and a shrinking police force all pose challenges, but said he is committed to bringing crime down.
“We will do that with all the people involved. Fighting crime is not a spectator sport, it’s everybody being involved. It’s the MPD, it’s community members, it’s businesses,” Contee said. “We are still in this fight.”