One of the biggest challenges college students face is balance.
Finding time to work in between classes and outside activities is a juggling act for most students.
However, the Orange Police Department’s Cadet program is an entry level job and might be the perfect fit for students who have varying schedules, especially for those considering law enforcement as a career.
“Being a cadet is a great job because it lets me focus on school,” Orange Police Cadet Matt Ferrer said. “They’re very flexible with school hours and they keep you accountable for your grades, so it also helps me keep my grades up.”
In addition, being part of the Cadet program looks great on a resume and helps students build their office skills.
“The job helps me gauge what I want to do in the future, whether I actually want to become an officer or take a different route,” Cadet Megan Suarez said.
“There’s a lot of expectation with this job but it’s rewarding in the sense that you get to work with people that are really cool and really genuine,” Cadet Zach Saldivar added. “Even if law enforcement isn’t what you end up doing as a career, it’s just a good building block.”
For those looking to get their foot in the door at a department, the Cadet program can be a great starting place.
Lt. Scott Trausch, who started his career as a Cadet for the Orange Police Department, realizes the value of students who use the program as a stepping stone to becoming officers.
“I think the ideal hire is one who starts off as a cadet here, goes to college to get their degree, and then hopefully comes back so we can hire them as a full-time officer because we know them and how they work already,” Trausch said.
Though prospective Cadets don’t need job experience, they do have to pass a full background investigation, polygraph test, and multiple interviews before getting hired.
“You need to have a clean background,” Cadet Shaveen Senadeera said.
Cadets work a wide variety of jobs at the Orange Police Department, including in the Records Bureau, Backgrounds and Training, Traffic, and Property and Evidence.
In Records, Saldivar and Kelly Banderas make copies of police and traffic collision reports and assist with vehicle and property releases.
In the Backgrounds and Training unit, Suarez, Ferrer, and Kristin Sandoval facilitate Live Scans, set up ride-alongs, assist investigators, run errands, file documents, testing and much more.
Cadets also assist officers during DUI checkpoints and special events.
The Cadets work on rotations, which means they have the opportunity to see how every division within the department operates.
“You get to communicate with the officers, detectives, and even the sergeants and lieutenants,” Senadeera said.
“I love being able to learn about different departments at the Orange Police Department and just being able to be involved in everything,” Sandoval added.
This job is a great way for the students to get a feel for what police work really entails.
“Several officers here have been cadets and are now full-time officers,” Trausch said. “I think it’s a great start to have someone start their career at a young age, like a cadet and then move up through the ranks.”
Trausch got his first taste of policing during high school.
“When Captain (Dave) Nichols was a brand new entry level officer, he took me on my first ride along,” Trausch said. “That’s when I just fell in love with the job and knew this is what I want to do.”
Trausch worked as a Cadet for a little over two years before attending Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and graduating with a degree in Social Science.
“I did my senior project on police pursuits,” Trausch said. “I knew in my mind that I was going to be a cop, and I was just hoping and praying that it was going to be back home, where I started, at Orange PD.”
During his time as a Cadet, Trausch worked a variety jobs for the department, ranging from washing cars to running errands to working the front desk.
However, his favorite part of the job was working undercover with ABC.
“The ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) Program would send me into these bars,” Trausch said. “Being an 18-year-old kid, going in undercover with officers watching you, buying a beer, and watching the takedown was really cool at the time.”
Trausch is an example of what Cadets can become.
“I see Cadets in the locker room and I’ll tell them that I started off in that little light blue uniform too and I used to go to the carwash and run errands,” Trausch said. “I know the tasks probably don’t seem important all the time, but they are an important part of the organization.”
“I will remind them and I say, ‘Look, I started off making $10.25 an hour and now I’m a lieutenant,’” he said.
For Cadets like Senadeera, Sandoval, and Ferrer who are thinking of working in law enforcement later on, Trausch’s story is inspirational.
Senadeera recently started his application process to become a police recruit for the department.
“(Working) here encouraged me more to apply because I always wanted to be an officer, but I wasn’t really 100 percent sure,” Senadeera said. “Once I started working here I got into the right mindset and got involved with the people who encouraged me to pursue a career in law enforcement.”
No matter what path Cadets choose, they all agree that the job is valuable.
“It’s not one of those jobs where you dread going to work,” Suarez said. “It’s rewarding because I have learned a lot just from being here, whether it’s stuff about the department or just stuff that I can use in life.”
To top it all off, Cadets say the Orange PD staff is what makes the job so fun. The Cadets encourage anyone who is even considering the job to apply.
“Just try it, even if you’re scared, because it’s really fun,” Sandoval said.
If you are interested in applying to work as a Cadet for the Orange Police Department, begin the application process online by clicking here.