Hiring police officers right now is hard. But D.C. police say the revival of the MPD Cadet Corps program has proven extremely popular, and is providing a new source of recruits who can help fill the ranks of an understaffed department bracing for even more departures in the years to come.
Police Chief Robert Contee, a former Cadet Corps member who rose through the ranks, was joined by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser for the opening of the new MPD Cadet Corps Training Center in Southeast D.C. on Wednesday.
The facility, just a couple of blocks away from the Anacostia Metro Station, started development after it became clear that space at the MPD training academy near Blue Plains was too limited.
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“This facility is fitting of what we expect — the excellence that we expect from our young people,” said Contee. “If we expect excellence from them then we have to invest excellence in them and we are certainly doing that with this investment today.”
The Cadet Corps program is open to District residents between the ages of 17 and 24. With nearly 100 cadets currently, the District is hoping to expand to about 150 in the next fiscal year. The training center, on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, provides the classroom and instructional space cadets will need as they progress to the training academy.
“It was a hot mess, to be honest with you,” said Contee, describing the way the Cadet Corps had to share space with the department’s regular academy classes.
The new facility is where cadets will go for instruction outside of their regular DCPS schooling if they’re one of the 12th graders involved with the program, or UDC, where the cadets work toward their associate degree.
“What we wanted to do was mirror the training academy experience that’s taking place at the training academy but put our cadets in a place that we can all be proud,” said Contee.
Cadets no longer in high school can start at a salary of over $36,000, while those still in high school start around $17 per hour. Once they have their associate degree and can become recruits, the salary jumps up to around $60,000 per year.
Right now, the city has 86 more cadets in the pipeline. On top of that, Contee said, another 40 youths are signed up for a “prospect day” this weekend, where interested residents can begin their application process and go through testing and background checks.
“The impact this program can have on our youth is expansive,” said Contee. “The lives of our youth can change with one decision. My life’s trajectory changed with that same decision.”