At the Tustin Police Department, cadets don’t stay cadets for long


Everyone knows the Tustin Police Department is a family.

It comes as no surprise that this tight knit department prefers to hire from within.

Anyone who is considering becoming an officer for the Tustin Police Department might want to first consider starting out as a cadet.

Chances are they won’t stay a cadet for long. 

“We really see our cadet program as a steppingstone to become a police officer,” said Sgt. Matthew Nunley, who oversees the cadet program. “When we are looking to hire people, we want people that are interested in the position.”

The Tustin Police Department has multiple (now full-time) staff members who started their careers as cadets.

“We make it a practice to hire our people,” Nunley said. “If you come here, do a good job, and work hard, we’re going to give you a shot.”

The cadets get to see the inner workings of all aspects of the Department.

If somebody wants to become an officer but doesn’t really know what division they want to work in, starting as a cadet can give them an edge.

And because the cadets at the Tustin Police Department work rotations, they only stay in a specific division for six months before being transferred to a new one.

“The goal is to get them a little bit of knowledge in every aspect of police work, so they get an idea of how things are here,” Nunley said. “Hopefully when they end up going through the police academy they already have a pretty wide range of police knowledge that helps them be successful in the academy and helps them later on to understand how we work specifically.”

Some cadets work in Investigations, some work in Traffic, some in Records, some are at the front desk, and others are in Property and Evidence.

Tustin PD Sgt. Matt Nunley.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Brandon Sauerwein is a cadet who works in the Criminal Investigations Division.

“Every day there’s going be something new that I can learn, so I enjoy that part of (being a cadet),” Sauerwein said. “Detective (Ryan) Newton is my boss and he always keeps the job fun and interesting, whether it’s throwing something at me or giving me a fun task to go do.”

Sauerwein, who’s 19, plans on applying to become a police officer after he gets his associate’s degree and turns 21.  Then he will work toward his bachelor’s degree.

“But if I don’t feel ready, I’ll stick in the cadet program for a little bit longer just so that I have that extra preparation before I go into the academy,” Sauerwein explained.

Nunley encourages anyone who is a cadet and wants to become full-time at the Department to get their degree.

“I ended up becoming a police officer very early.  I went to school, got my bachelor’s and then my master’s degree and it was hard,” Nunley said. “Life starts to happen as you get older so I really try to tell the cadets to get their degree first and the rest will follow.”

The best part is, the Tustin Police Department makes it easy for cadets to go to school while working.

The Department requires cadets to be at least 18 years old and to be a full-time student.

Because of this requirement, the Department offers flexible hours and will work with cadets every semester to readjust their working schedule to accommodate their classes.

Tustin PD Explorers Isaac Mora, Joshua Both, Ana Lopez, Eduardo Lopez and Daniel Garcia, stand with Tustin PD Officers Robert Nelson, left, Capt. Robert Wright, Det. Dave Nguyen and Lt. Brian Greene, right, at the Orange County Law Enforcement Explorer Academy Class of 88 Graduation.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Nunley gives this advice to anyone considering becoming a cadet:

“Make good life decisions because it matters. I remember making good decisions that other people my age weren’t making because I knew what I wanted to do: become an officer,” Nunley said. “When you are on this path maybe you don’t have the fun that everyone else your age has, but you will have a lot more opportunity later on in life if you make good choices at the cadet age. I guarantee it.”

The Tustin Police Department is currently hiring police cadets.

For more information on Tustin’s cadet program click here.