The Sanford Police Department in Florida has found a novel solution to low recruitment rates and staff shortages — offering to pay for cadets’ police academy training.
Sanford police say applications are flooding in after their promise to sponsor cadets through academy training in return for accepting a job at the agency.
Rookie officers Mike Colon and Ricardo Pacheco are recent examples of the new hiring program. Both police academy graduates had their tuition totally covered by the department, which is looking for better ways to attract homegrown talent.
Colon, a new father, would not have had the time and money for the police academy if not for the sponsorship program.
“After one year in Seminole County Corrections, I saw that Sanford was offering a sponsorship. With them paying for everything, it pretty much reduced the amount of stress as far as trying to take care of a family or an outside job and trying to make ends meet,” Colon told WKMG News 6.
Usually, police departments will extend officers to recruits after they gradate from the police academy. However, in today’s environment of fewer applicants, hiring can be difficult. By guaranteeing job offers to cadets and sponsoring their training, the central Florida department has found an edge over other agencies.
Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith said the goal of the program was to find the best candidates, hire them and then send them to the academy on a starting salary.
Colon and Pacheco were selected out of a pool of around 100 applicants.
Sergeant Dr. Tina Leman, who oversees the Sanford Police Department’s cadet program and manages all of the applications, views the program as a great way to attract homegrown talent from the community.
“It’s definitely a game-changer,” Leman said. “It increases the trust between law enforcement and community by creating those relationships, by bringing people that they have grown up with and seeing them now in this law enforcement professional role.”
Colon said being selected in this format has increased the pressure to perform well.
“They’re holding us to a higher expectation and we’re just trying to give that back to them to assure them they made the right choice by selecting us,” Colon said. “By doing [what] we’re supposed to do, being proactive, reaching out to the communities.”
Since the cadet program began in 2019, the department has sponsored 16 cadets, three of whom are locals.