Maricopa Police Cadet program going strong

MPD police vehicle car

In a world where law and order, leadership and a commitment to public service are sometimes in short supply, the Maricopa Police Department’s Cadet program continues to thrive.

Founded in 2009 by Officers Chris Evans and Rob Wenderoth, and run today by Officer Kevin McCullar, the program is designed to instill the values of leadership, self-confidence and dedication to service to boys and girls in Maricopa aged 14 to 20.

The program has weekly meetings lasting about two hours that include physical activity, law enforcement-specific education and training in police-based scenarios.

Those in the program – whose grads number about 300 to date – get to hear first-hand from MPD officers about their jobs, different scenarios they encounter during their shifts, and the value of policing. According to MPD spokesman Sgt. Hal Koozer, the program gives cadets a realistic view of what police work is like.

“Some of the education is done by officers with specific skills sets, such as SWAT, K-9, DUI enforcement, and many others,” Koozer said. “Cadets even participate in some city events in the cadet uniform.”

A major part of the program is instilling, or tapping into, participants’ spirit of service. As such, they volunteer at city events, assisting city staff and volunteers in making sure the events run smoothly.

In addition, Cadets participate in yearly competitions against other cadet and explorer posts throughout the country and expose them to a bit of what life as a police officer is like, Koozer said.

“The cadet program allows our youth to have an inside access and perspective to what police officers, dispatchers and police volunteers do on a daily basis,” he said. “It is designed to show the true purpose of law enforcement and instill the values that ‘we’ is greater than ‘I.’”

Koozer said the program has spawned at least one active police officer, Edward Figueroa of the Phoenix Police Department.

Given the program’s focus on leadership skills, it is not surprising that many of its graduates move on to leadership-focused careers, with about 25 percent entering the military after the Cadet program.

Cadet meetings are held every Thursday evening at 6 p.m. at Maricopa High School. Those interested in applying may get an application from the Maricopa Police Department, or call MPD and ask for McCullar.