Metropolitan Police Department Cadet Taron Alston speaks during an opening ceremony for the department's new Cadet Corps Training Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in D.C. on Oct. 19. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Metropolitan Police Department Cadet Taron Alston speaks during an opening ceremony for the department's new Cadet Corps Training Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in D.C. on Oct. 19. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Metropolitan Police Chief Robert J. Contee III on Wednesday opened the department’s new Cadet Corps Training Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast.

The facility, the first of its type in the city, is for cadets as they toward becoming sworn police officers. At the training center, the cadets will be able to do their work through the University of the District of Columbia, study the corps curriculum and engage with various guest speakers from the departments as well as District government agencies.

“As a former MPD Cadet, I was given an opportunity to see the department from a different perspective as a young person from Washington, D.C., and that is where my story began with this agency,” Contee said. “The impact this program can have on our youth is expansive, and the trajectory of their life can change. This is a public safety investment that will directly benefit our workforce and the community.”

The cadet program lets D.C. residents who are in their senior year in high school or between the ages of 17 and 24 serve part-time as uniformed, civilian workers. Cadets earn a salary of $35,637 yearly while taking college courses and can earn up to 60 tuition-free credits toward a degree at UDC’s community college.

Additionally, cadets work along with police officers while they perform their duties. The program puts the cadets on track to enter the MPD’s Police Officer Recruit Program at the MPD Academy.

Ninety-eight percent of cadets are minorities and 51% are women.

Taron Alston, a member of the cadet program who resides in the River Terrace neighborhood in Ward 7, thanked the mayor and the chief for the new facility.

Alston said his interest in a career with the MPD started when he realized his football aspirations would not go beyond high school.

“I saw the advertisement about joining the police department on Instagram,” he said. “I was immediately interested. The program has taught me the importance of discipline and punctuality.”

Alston realizes that some of his peers are wary of his decision to enter the cadet program — and he is fine with that.

“I am proud to be a member of the corps,” he said. “It’s my life. Nobody else can tell me what to do with it. I brush off the criticism and keep moving.”

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