November 01, 2010

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How to become a police cadet

Becoming a police cadet is a great move if you want to become a cop. Police work is in high demand, which makes it a great career choice in today’s difficult economy. Jobs for police officers are steadily growing, with new employment opportunities and good paying jobs available for the right candidates.

Becoming a police cadet can be the first step toward becoming a full-fledged member of a law enforcement team. Cadet programs are designed to transition enrollees into a job as police officers.

First of all, let’s explore the roll of a police cadet. Cadet programs are essentially an entrée into law enforcement via an apprenticeship program for people between the age of 18 and 21, although the age requirement varies state-to-state. It offers an opportunity for a young person to explore a career as a police officer at an age where a career choice is the next step towards full-on adulthood. It’s a great opportunity to see the benefits and challenges of a life in law enforcement so as to determine if one is suited to this career choice. Basically, it's the first step of the police recruiting process.

Police cadet programs are run by the various local police departments, so each one has its own rules and requirements. Some offer paid positions; some are full-time while others are part-time and some require the enrollee to be in college while participating.

In order for enrollees to experience the many different aspects of law enforcement, they’re rotated through various police divisions, such as traffic control, community policing and forensics.

Among other things, a police cadet learns about firearm use, driving techniques, policing ethics; state and local laws, cultural awareness, decision making, crime scene control; life-saving techniques, and report writing. These are all valuable skills necessary to a career in the field of law enforcement.

Upon completion of the program, selected enrollees can transition into a job as a police officer.

Since police cadet programs vary depending on where they take place, here’s an example of how one operates in Portland, Oregon:

The mandate of the Portland police cadet training program is “For the Cadets to become future Community Policing Officers for the Portland Police Bureau”. The requirements for enrolling are:

• To be between 16 and 20 years old.
• To have at least a C average in high school with no class failures.
• To have a clean record with no arrests or convictions that would prevent one from becoming a police officer.

Applications for the cadet training program are accepted on an ongoing basis. Once accepted, the new cadet goes through classroom instruction, police training and one-on-one mentorship with police officers. Cadets are assigned to one of the three Portland precincts where they work in various divisions alongside police officers. Some of the activities that a police cadet is involved in are: policing community events such as parades and rallies; going to traffic accident scenes; assisting at crime scenes; doing traffic speed control; and going on ride-alongs with officers. They wear uniforms, but aren’t authorized to make arrests or issue citations.

Once they successfully finish the police cadet program, enrollees can apply to become full-fledged police officers.

About the author

"Become a Cop" articles are intended to educate individuals interested in law enforcement careers about what it takes to join the force. These articles are written by PoliceOne staff members and PoliceOne contributors, and cover a wide range of topics from the basics on the different types of law enforcement careers to how to prepare for the police recruitment interview. If there's a topic you'd like to see covered, or are interested in writing for Become a Cop, email

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