Officers with the Rutland City Police Department are hoping to find more local kids who want to learn about law enforcement and join the bi-weekly cadet program.
As part of the program, cadets volunteer in the community as well as working with police at public events such as parades. They meet weekly with advisers, Officer Tyler Tavares and Officer Jimmy Plakas, but will also hear from guests who are agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The Rutland City Police Department Facebook page said activities for the cadets will teach them about crime scene processing, building searches and the tactics employed when law-enforcement officers use force. Also, they will have an opportunity to train in the use of firearms.
“When we took over, we asked all the cadets what they wanted to do. Obviously, they’re all interested in law enforcement, but when they tell us what kind of career path they want to follow, we try to scope the program to what they want to see,” Tavares said.
Tavares and Plakas also attempt to try something new every time the cadets meet and try to make every session entertaining and educational.
“One week we’ll go over criminal law. The next week, we’ll go over search and rescue. Again, we really opened it up to them and ask them what they want to see and what interests them,” he said.
About six to 10 kids regularly attend the cadet program, most of them female, but Tavares said he and Plakas are hoping that number will go up during summer vacation when local students have more free time.
The program dates back to the 1970s, according to Cmdr. Greg Sheldon, who was once the adviser. There have been gaps in operation, some lasting years, until an officer joined the RCPD and took an interest.
One of the more recent revivals was when Sheldon joined the RCPD in 2002 and kept it active until about 2013. About two years ago, it was revived again by Officers Eric Morgano and Damon Nguyen and then Tavares and Plakas picked it up.
Benson called it a “great program.” A number of local police officers and Rutland City Police Department staff got their start in law-enforcement by going through the cadet program, which is actually an explorer post of the Boy Scouts of America.
Benson said he believed it was the oldest cadet post in Vermont that’s still in operation.
The cadets are learning about more than just police work, according to Benson.
“These are community leaders. Right now they may be just teenagers but they’re learning leadership. Some may not stay in this area but if one or two stay in the area out of every group that comes through, you have people who have some kind of leadership and they return to the community and they provide that leadership to the community,” he said.
Tavares said the cadet program was a good way for the police to interact with young people in a positive way. The program also helps the cadets learn skills that can help them later in life, he added.
“Law enforcement is a good career to get behind. It gives them a commitment. It makes them better leaders. They learn to work as a team,” Tavares said.
Tavares is a recent officer in Rutland who joined the force in September. He said his involvement with the cadets, which began in October, has been rewarding.
“It’s fun to watch the cadets get excited about recruiting more people and being involved in what they want to do,” he said.
There is no “term” for the cadet program so members, who must be at least in eighth grade and between the ages of 14 and 21, can come to as many meetings as they want, but they don’t have to attend every meeting or a specific number.
The year-round program, which is open to kids throughout Rutland County, meets from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Rutland City Police headquarters on Wales Street. There is no fee for being a cadet, but Tavares said participants must be insured, which means a one-time cost of about $25.
Applications to join the cadet program are available at the police station. The application process includes a background check and proof of parental or guardian approval. The program has a page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RutlandPoliceCadets.