The Winters Police Department is hosting an open meeting on Sunday, July 24 for anyone ages 15−20 interested in joining the cadet program. Joining the ranks is not only a step towards a career in law enforcement, but an opportunity to develop some life skills while serving one’s community.
Essentially, cadets are volunteers who are learning the ins and outs of law enforcement. Whether it’s in the field or the office, the program is a dynamic, hands-on approach to honing these young adults’ ambitions to one day joining law enforcement.
“We teach kids some of the basic skills when it comes to what officers do in the field or what records people do in the office. It’s not in-depth on how law enforcement works, but we teach them basic codes, how to do things phonetically on the radio, how to stand in formation, how to prepare for uniform inspections and so on,” said Officer Thomas Letterman, one of the program organizers. “It’s also a mentorship program in the sense of, if they need help with job applications, or doing an interview somewhere, or if they’re interested in something at school and don’t know how to go about it, we try to help them in those ways as well. It’s all just to help them gain a skillset they didn’t know they had.”
From ride-alongs and facilitating community events to guest speakers and demonstrations, cadets are immersed in various facets of law enforcement. In the past, the program’s welcomed guests from the CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation), K-9 units as well as search and rescue.
“All of us here in law enforcement are in this job to help people. That’s our ultimate goal. And our cadets are home-grown and have grown up here, so to be able to become a part of this program and give back to their community is a big plus,” Letterman said. “The cadets help us out on all kinds of stuff. They help us connect with the community in a way I might not be able to because I didn’t grow up here or have those established roots like they do.”
Unfortunately, the cadet program has faced some struggles getting youth to participate in the program these past two, pandemic-filled years, while others have simply aged out. Regardless, the program is currently five strong, with each cadet playing an important role at the police station.
“There’s mandatory meetings we have scheduled six months out, but for the rest of the eight hours cadets agree to serve every month, they call or text if they can do a ride-along or help at the office. We’re always happy to have help around and that’s how the cadets make up their monthly hours,” Community Services Officer Andrea Gonzalez, co-program organizer, said about the cadet time commitment. “Now we’re able to go to more events because restrictions are lifting. We were at Youth Day, we helped out at the July 3 fireworks show and we’ll also be at the Carnitas Festival.”
The open meeting is on July 24 from 2–4 p.m. at the Winters Police Station. Youth ages 15–20 are eligible, and can RSVP by emailing email@example.com.
Becoming a cadet is known to be a top-notch Senior Capstone project as well over the years.