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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Inside the UCDPD Cadet Academy

 As Cadets near graduation, they discuss the program’s rewards and challenges, react to COVID-19

The individuals in the UC Davis Police Department’s Cadet Academy have almost completed another season of physical training, learning and teambuilding. From January until their graduation in late April, the cadets dedicate themselves to an experience in law enforcement. 

Every Winter Quarter, the UC Davis Police Department hosts a team of students and recent UC Davis graduates in its Cadet Academy, a program for individuals interested in law enforcement, forensics or related fields. According to UCPD Chief Joseph Farrow, the program was designed for two purposes: It is “an introduction for students to learn more about the law enforcement profession, and for us to learn more about student needs, feelings and recommendations,” Farrow said. 

The program began in 2016, but Farrow said it has “grown and matured since its inception.”

The program has room for about 30 students, and, according to Farrow, the cadets come from a variety of backgrounds, majors and career paths. Farrow said many cadets are low-income, first-generation or altogether non-traditional police applicants. Some are not interested in a career in law enforcement at all, but simply want to learn. 

Farrow, who has direction over the academy, says the cadets’ voices are what keeps the program changing and developing.

“Our students are very open and are asked to be critical so we can learn and adjust,” Farrow said. “Policing remains turbulent in America and we are trying our best to adjust and adopt more contemporary practices that are accepted or appreciated by the people we serve.” 

Many cadets are students or recent alumni juggling class, work and the academy. Cadets spend Tuesday and Thursday evenings and all day Saturday in the classroom and then engage in physical training. 

Mihoko Kubo, a UC Davis alumni who graduated in Winter Quarter of 2019 with a double major in chemistry and Spanish, describes classroom sessions as more than sitting down for lecture.

“The classroom lectures on Tuesdays and Saturdays have included all kinds of materials, from CSI (crime scene investigation) forensic classes to CPR certifications to scenario-based trainings,” Kubo said. “We even have a training coming up this Saturday where we will be experiencing the taser and getting pepper sprayed, so that one day when we have the opportunity to serve our community as police officers we have the empathy and know what it’s like to be on the other end of the taser or getting pepper sprayed.”

Physical training, Kubo says, involves strengthening exercises, miles of running and martial arts techniques.

“For strengthening, we’ve done tire flipping, using dumbbells and kettlebells

— thank you Fire Department for letting us borrow — carrying fire hoses while running up and

down six flights of stairs on the Hutchinson parking structure and pushing cars in neutral,” Kubo said. “This all sounds horrifying at first, but the best part […] is that we get to do this as a team and push each other to work through it. It’s the best feeling in the world to know that we made it through after completing these intense and high-impact workouts.”

Kubo says being part of a team makes the rigorous physical exertion and long Saturdays worth it. 

“Teamwork is a huge part of law enforcement,” Kubo said. “I don’t think I could have gotten this overwhelming amount of support anywhere else on campus.”

Christian Dolf, another recent alumni with a degree in cellular biology, agreed with Kubo, saying the biggest rewards in the programs were “having the opportunity to meet and get to know all the other cadets in the class, as well as the officers that work for UC Davis.” 

Cadets also described other rewards, such as increased physical fitness and new insight into the world of law enforcement. 

“I feel like the biggest reward for me while in the program has been learning about all aspects regarding law enforcement,” UC Davis alumnus Jenny Choc said. “I didn’t personally have any prior knowledge or experience working with or being around police officers. Many of the things I have learned in the cadet academy have all been new to me.” 

One of the major rewards and opportunities for graduating cadets is that they are offered positions at the police department. According to Chief Farrow, almost 50% of UCDPD officers were academy graduates. Additionally, Farrow said the academy prepares cadets for other opportunities in the real world. 

“They get a great introduction to all aspects of the law enforcement profession, learn great skills in teamwork, and are taught insightful skills in job applications and job interviews,” Farrow said. “We try to impart on them the life skills necessary to be successful after leaving college. We also try hard to help place those interested into full-time positions or paid internships in fields of their interest.”

Farrow said with the success of the program and increased demand, UCDPD is considering offering an additional fall academy.

Of course, for the cadets, where there are rewards there are also challenges. 

“[The biggest challenge was] learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable,” said Kara Jones, a UC Davis alumni. 

Many cadets experienced initial difficulty with the rigorous workout routines. Kubo said when she started the academy, she was not physically prepared. 

“But as I kept up with the trainings and became better in shape, I was able to overcome that challenge while also gaining several pounds of muscle mass,” Kubo said. “It’s uncomfortable to do all of those workouts at once, but I was able to break out of my comfort

zone and embrace the discomfort.”

Choc noted that, going into the cadets, she expected and even welcomed challenge.

  “If someone is trying to be a part of law enforcement, they need to have the mentality to be able to push themselves past what they think is their best,” Choc said. “I came in with the mentality to have an open mind, ask many questions and try new things. Yes, Physical Training may cause me to be tired in the moment or sore the next day, but I welcome that.”

All of the challenges are worth it for the cadets, who gain muscle mass and obtain experience for a potential career in law enforcement.

“I wanted to prepare myself for attending a police academy,” fourth-year psychology major Timothy Brooks said. “[And] gain the opportunity to apply to UC Davis as a police officer while making professional contacts for my own career development.”

Of course, being a part of the academy changed or reinforced some previous sentiments about police officers and law enforcement, which can be a difficult subject for some students on a college campus. 

For students like Dolf, being a part of the academy changed his perspective in that he was able to identify more similarities than differences between himself and police officers.

“The program has allowed us to interact and get to know some of the officer’s at UC Davis in a more comfortable setting,” Dolf said. “It has enhanced my opinions, because we were able to get to know them as people and are able to recognize that they’re all still people.”

For Jenny Choc, her time at the academy exposed her to a much more positive side of the UCDPD.

“When I was an undergrad at UCD, the only police exposure I had was when they pepper sprayed students in the MU,” she said. “With this academy, I can genuinely say that every single officer I have met has left a positive impression. I do believe that UC Davis as a whole has a clear vision as to how they want to grow, and the UCDPD is doing a great job with that, as well.”

Cadets today have a new and very unique challenge to their weekly routine: COVID-19. With cases of the virus increasing in the US and the introduction of the government mandate to stay inside, the cadets’ time in the academy has been cut short. 

“We missed out on several learning opportunities because we were unable to meet [in person],” Jones said. “Luckily, the physical fitness sector of the academy is still attainable with COVID-19.”

Kubo added that the cadets missed out on specific training sessions she had been looking forward to. 

“We are missing out on those opportunities, such as learning how to operate emergency vehicles at the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Academy, lectures on hostage situations, interactions with people with mental disabilities/illnesses, and volunteering at the assisted living care home to spend time with the elderly folks,” Kubo said.

Choc said the cadets are working together to make the best of the situation and continue their physical fitness.

“Physical Training is no longer mandatory but the majority of the cadets have decided to continue meeting Tues/Thursday for PT [physical training],” Choc said. “Some of us have decided to create fun HIIT workouts that allow us to work hard but be able to maintain social distancing, too.”

Farrow said, like the rest of the world, the academy has been affected by the virus. Farrow explained that UCDPD has decided to cancel the graduation ceremony, a celebration which is typically attended by more than 500 people. While the cadets are just about wrapped up for the year, Farrow said he still feels the cadets deserve recognition for their hard work this quarter.

At the end of the month, 26 cadets will graduate from the academy. While the cadets might have faced more challenges than usual, the cadets agree that anyone who might be interested in joining should give it a try. 

“There are different layers to the academy that I think students could benefit from,” Choc said. “There are currently cadets that are looking into a career in law enforcement, some that want to work with other populations but want to understand law enforcement more, and some that joined because they simply wanted to get out of their comfort zone. You are able to get multiple perspectives from different students and make new friends and connections.”

Written by: Alana Wikkeling –– features@theaggie.org

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