Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes went through it.
So did Capt. John Siko.
So did a handful of 10 detectives, half of the department’s 20 sergeants and numerous rank-and-file officers.
We’re talking about the Fullerton Police Department’s Cadet program, where close to 60 percent of the agency’s sworn officers got their first real exposure to a law enforcement career.
Working closely with sworn personnel, cadets generally range in age from 18 to 23 and cycle through several units, taking on tasks that include record keeping, processing traffic citations, finger printing, evidence storage and taking reports.
They go on regular ride-alongs and undergo rigorous, high-stress inspections, similar to what they’ll experience in police training academies.
The percentage of FPD cadets taking the next step is higher than in cadet programs in other agencies, said Lt. R. Cleggett, who oversees the program.
“The whole purpose is to get them involved in seeing how law enforcement works,” Cleggett said. “Our goal is to see … do you have what it takes? Are you a fit here? Do you want to be a police officer?”
If you poll the current group of 21 cadets on why they applied to the program, the answer to Cleggett’s last question would be a resounding yes.
Jeremy Garcia, 21, was an Explorer in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and then moved to Fullerton to attend Cal State Fullerton.
He wanted to continue working toward a career in law enforcement and applied to the FPD cadet program.
“The things they have exposed us to and the things they have allowed us to do is unlike any other agency in Orange County,” said Garcia, an FPD cadet for 20 months.
Like all cadets, Garcia started in records before transitioning to property and CSI where he learned about handling and booking evidence.
“That was the best insight I got into policing,” Garcia said. “I don’t think I’ve known anybody that knows as much as we do at our age.”
Dillan Cazares, who has been on the job for a month and is the FPD’s newest cadet, is amazed will all the information he already has taken in.
“I learn something new every day,” said Cazares, a student at Fullerton College. “It is definitely a wealth of knowledge we get here. You’re always doing something and participating hands on.”
Cadets undergo a four- to five-month hiring process that includes a background check, polygraph test and interviews with the Professional Standards unit.
They work 20 hours a week, must be enrolled in college full time and maintain at least a C average in every class.
After a year on the job, they can test for the title of senior cadet.
“It was more than I expected,” said Det. Mario Magliano, who started as a cadet in 1988 and became a sworn officer in less than a year. “It was exciting. You were within the agency itself to learn how police work really functions. It was a great steppingstone and prepared me for the academy. I felt I had a step up on everybody else.”
After going through the program, some cadets discover they really don’t want to be police officers, Cleggett said. Instead, they are drawn to other departments such as dispatch or crime scene analysis.
“Even if I’m not hired as a police officer, it’s a great thing to put on a resume,” Senior Cadet Nolan Turner said.
Cadet Alexa Elkabbara, 19, said her passion for law enforcement took root at age 3 and just got stronger as she got older.
Elkabbara got her first taste in the field as a Fullerton Police Explorer while she was in high school.
Becoming a cadet was the next logical choice, she said.
“I think that it is a really cool spot to be in: to be able to be working so close to law enforcement,” Elkabbara said. “If you want to be in law enforcement, this is probably the best job you can get before hand.”