Inaugural cadet program trains college students
Some college students considering careers in law enforcement are getting firsthand experience in police work through the Maui Police Department’s new cadet program.
The inaugural group of nine cadets started their training Monday.
By Friday morning, they were saluting, marching and making pivot turns under the direction of officer Trinidad Kaleo Alconcel, drill and ceremony instructor.
The cadets were “eager to learn, just like a sponge,” Alconcel said.
Police started the program as a way of helping the short-staffed department recruit more police officers, said Lt. Audra Sellers, commander of the police Community Relations Section.
“We’re hoping that by the time they graduate, they will have a degree and they will get into our academy,” Sellers said. “Some people are showing interest already.
“Hopefully, they will be in our next recruit class.”
College students between ages 18 and 21 can apply for the part-time cadet positions that pay $15 an hour for up to 19 hours a week.
After receiving training in police general orders and standard operating procedures, as well as the law and other police curriculum, the cadets will be sent to different police districts and work with police officers and other police employees, Sellers said.
Eventually, the cadets will shadow detectives, public safety aides, juvenile counselors and juvenile investigators, as well as work with patrol, vice, traffic and Receiving Desk officers, she said.
While many of the cadets are too young to be police officers, “they still have the maturity,” said officer Marjorie Kahookele-Pea, who is coordinator of the program.
She noted that “back in the day,” some police officers started the job at age 18.
Now, with police officers required to be 21 so they can carry a firearm, the cadet program offers an opportunity for more exposure to the job until students are old enough to apply to be police officers, Kahookele-Pea said.
“This is the time they want to figure out what to do with their life,” she said. “They’re going to develop relationships, they’re going to get excited. They’re going to want to do this job.”
The cadets will learn about little publicized aspects of the job, including checking bus stops at 2 in the morning and doing community outreach, Sellers said.
“We’re not just police that handcuff people and throw them in jail,” she said. “We’re much more than that.
“This is how you can make a difference.”
The cadets will experience the shift work required as part of police work, as well as see how the job can require working on birthdays, holidays and weekends, Sellers said.
“They’re not going to have a misconception of what we do,” she said. “Maybe a fire happens or we get a tsunami warning. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been working eight to 16 hours, you may be working 20 hours. That’s what we want to expose them to, the realities of what we deal with.
“We can mold them and open their eyes because police work’s not for everybody.”
Cadets who decide police work isn’t for them could instead pursue careers as police evidence technicians or criminalists, Kahookele-Pea said.
“A lot of people don’t realize everything we have to do in our department,” she said.
Like other police departments across the country, the Maui Police Department had a cadet program years ago.
Nationwide, the programs weren’t very successful because cadets were assigned to do menial tasks, Kahookele-Pea said.
She spent about two years doing research to develop the new cadet program, getting help from a Mainland department that, like other departments, had revamped its cadet program.
Eventually, MPD cadets will be assigned to handle minor noncriminal complaints, direct traffic and take on other duties that aren’t dangerous, Kahookele-Pea said.
“It’s really exciting,” she said.
Shanelley Dumlao, an 18-year-old Wailuku resident, said she applied to be a cadet because she wanted more knowledge about police work.
She started her first semester at the University of Hawaii Maui College and is studying administration of justice, with the goal of becoming a police officer.
In high school, she said she had ups and downs.
“My mom’s friend is a police officer and he would help me,” she said. “So I wanted to help the community and be just like him.”
On Monday, when the cadets met Chief Tivoli Faaumu, members of his executive staff and Mayor Michael Victorino, Dumlao said she was nervous.
“Turns out the police officers here are really respectful, really nice,” she said.
Twenty-year-old Napili resident Austin Berry, who is studying criminal justice at UH-MC, said he is thinking about being a detective.
“It’s empowering,” he said of his experience as a cadet so far. “It really does make me feel like I’m going to make a change in this community.”
Alejandra Ramirez, 21, of Wailuku applied for the program after completing an internship at the county Department of the Prosecuting Attorney.
With interests in both law and law enforcement, the University of Hawaii-West Oahu student said, “I want to get the most exposure I can.”
She said she’s interested in criminal investigation.
“I’m not sure I want to be a police officer just yet,” she said. “I know this opportunity will help me figure that out. It has been pretty interesting.”
While police asked for 10 cadet positions, the mayor allotted 16 slots.
Police are looking for residents of Molokai, Lanai and Hana to fill two positions each in those districts.
Those interested in applying can call the Community Relations Section at 244-6380. Information also is available online at mauicounty.gov.