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D.C. Police Cadet Corps Trains Young People for Law Enforcement Careers

The Place Where Robert J. Contee III Began the Climb to Chief

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s Cadet Corps program serves as a vehicle to recruit District residents into the agency and has succeeded in getting females to participate and its alumni moving up in the ranks.

The corps consists of a specialized program specifically for District residents 17-24 years old who work part-time as uniformed civilian employees. The participants learn the skills necessary to qualify for the MPD’s Police Officer Recruitment Program. They have the chance to receive 60 hours at the University of the District of Columbia Community College tuition-free towards an associate’s degree-the minimum educational requirement to enter the police recruitment program — plus obtain District government benefits such as a starting annual salary of more than $34,000, plus health and dental insurance and the opportunity to be vested in the department’s pension fund.

Lt. Michael Jones, the former manager of the corps, said people who possess honesty, integrity and a desire to serve the community are encouraged to apply.

Attention to the makeup of the corps came when D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III noted participation in the corps as a factor in his joining the department. He enlisted in the corps as a senior at Spingarn High School in 1989, one of the small percentage of District residents participating in the program. Some D.C. council members have cited the department’s low number of participation by residents — nearly 17 percent, according to Contee — as a factor in the disconnect between officers and residents despite Blacks constituting 52 percent of the city’s police personnel, according to MPD statistics.

Contee Praise for Cadet Corps

At a news conference on May 3 at the Rosedale Recreation Center, Contee spoke of his pride in the corps in the context of the Summer Crime Initiative, the city’s crime-fighting strategy in selected neighborhoods.

“I am proud of the 100 cadets in our class this year and 60 of them are females,” he said. “All of the cadets are residents of our city. They will engage in conversations in the community this summer.”

Contee said corps members know the city and understand the culture of many of its neighborhoods. He said, in his opinion, that will make them effective police officers.

Contee has emphasized the importance of having females in the corps. Department statistics report 22 percent of MPD officers are women.

Taria Taylor’s Cadet Saga

He said his department will seek to increase the female ranks of the corps, as a part of his overall strategy to get more women to join the department.

Taria Taylor is one of the 60 females in the cadet corps. She said her desire to be a policewoman started at a young age.

“I have wanted a career with MPD since I was a girl,” Taylor, an east of the river resident, said. “I have seen relatives of mine go in and out of the criminal justice system and I didn’t like that. I wanted to do something about it.”

Taylor said she attended the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore to study criminal justice but became pregnant. She came back to the District and found out about the corps. She became sold on the program because of its salary and benefits and the chance to earn a degree tuition-free.

Additionally, Taylor said the national conversation on Blacks being killed by police while unarmed fueled her interest in law enforcement.

“Living in Ward 8 I saw how some police officers talked to people and how they treated them,” she said. “I decided that needed to change and I wanted to be the change I wanted to see.”

Stephan Armstrong, a cousin of Taylor’s, supports her decision to participate in the corps and ultimately join the police department.

“I am very excited about what she is doing,” Armstrong, a graduating senior at Friendship Technology Preparatory High School in Ward 8, said. “There are family members who have had trouble with the law and it has affected her. She has a goal and is set on being a police officer. I am a little concerned because the world is a little crazy now but I know she will do the right thing. That is the type of person she is.”

Chanel Dickerson: From Cadet to Assistant Chief

While Contee has been recognized as a leading alumnus of the cadet corps, D.C. Police Assistant Chief of Patrol Services Chanel Dickerson, who supervises the First, Sixth and Seventh Districts, participated in the program, too.

Dickerson joined the corps in 1988 after listening to a presentation at Eastern High School.

“I listened attentively as the officers described the highlights of the program,” she said. “It was at this moment that I knew I would become a Metropolitan police officer. The program was a conduit and taught me real-life experiences that were invaluable and changed the trajectory of my life.”

Dickerson said, because of her start as a cadet, she wants to continue to climb in the police profession.

“My ultimate career goal in law enforcement is to become a chief of police,” she said.

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