Anne Arundel County is moving to restart its police cadet program, which was eliminated more than a decade ago in a round of budget cuts.
Officials said this week that for about $180,000 per year, the county's Police Department could hire 10 part-time cadets — young adults who would learn police work while helping with duties such as directing traffic, canvassing neighborhoods and completing paperwork.
County Council Chairman John Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, is sponsoring a resolution encouraging the Police Department to reinstate the cadet program if money can be found for it. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 3.
"I know this $180,000 is going to be good money to help the Police Department out," Grasso said.
Grasso said he's recently gone on about 10 police ride-alongs and has been helping start citizen patrol programs in his North County district. He said the Police Department is understaffed, and police cadets are an inexpensive way to provide "extra eyes and ears."
The idea has the support of police Chief Kevin Davis, who is looking for ways to drum up funding to resume the program in the current budget year, which runs through the end of June.
Davis said he's asked County Executive Laura Neuman to include a police cadet program in next year's budget. Neuman will unveil her budget proposal in May.
"I wanted to do that the moment I walked into the door," said Davis, who was named chief last summer.
Police cadets would be between the ages of 18 and 21. They'd work part time for $12 an hour without benefits, Davis said.
The program would allow the cadets to learn about police work while police supervisors evaluate them to see whether they'd make good candidates for the police academy.
Davis said such cadets tend to be more successful in the academy, cutting down on the "washout rate" of unsuccessful candidates who cost taxpayers money.
"A little bit of money up front saves money in the long run," he said.
Cadets would spend supervised time in various areas of police work, including patrol, SWAT and investigations. They would also help at community events, in the stations and with nonlaw-enforcement duties. They would not have the power to make arrests or write tickets.
Davis said police cadets would complement the department's volunteer programs, which now include reserve officers — primarily retirees who help with traffic and crowd control — and volunteers in police service (VIPS), a group that helps with clerical work.
Officer O'Brien Atkinson, president of FOP Lodge 70, said uniformed officers have been pushing to revive the cadet program ever since it was eliminated.
"We've always supported the idea of a cadet program. Many of the best police officers I've met were [once] cadets," Atkinson said.
Too often, Atkinson said, police recruits don't realize until they're already in the academy that police work involves long hours, undesirable shifts, and mentally and physically difficult work.
Most large police departments have cadet programs, said Larry Harmel, executive director of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association.
Harmel is a former deputy superintendent of the Maryland State Police, which has had a cadet program for decades. Harmel said cadet programs represent "money well spent" because they benefit the cadets, the police and the public.
The Annapolis Police Department has had cadets in the past but doesn't currently have any, said Cpl. Amy Miguez, a spokeswoman for the department.
Anne Arundel Assistant Chief William Lowry said he got his start as a police cadet in Prince George's County in 1973, when he learned he was too young to apply to the police academy.
He remembers doing ride-alongs with police officers, spending time in central records and ferrying mail among the police stations.
"It enabled me to know I made the right decision," Lowry said. "I thoroughly enjoyed it."
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