Community Policing Success Story
Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College,
“Police Cadet Program”
Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC), located in Green Bay, has sought to promote continually problem-based learning activities for students enrolled in its 2-year Associate Degree Law Enforcement Program. Integrating community policing strategies within the core curriculum, the NWTC “Cadet Program” was created for local communities as a free service to municipal governments and their respective law enforcement agencies. Students participate voluntarily for credits as part of a required internship or to gain much needed experience for future employment. Each student must comply with the program’s policies and operational goals. An application, interview, reference checks, and background investigations are required before a student is accepted into the program. The program is also quite competitive, with the number of applicants consistently exceeding the number of positions available.
In 2007, NWTC Instructor Michael Albertson and Deputy John Flannery of the Brown County Sheriff’s Department initiated the program in the Village of Allouez, a suburb of 15,000 south of Green Bay. The police cadets were assigned to focus on the enforcement of village ordinances related to nuisance properties which had been of great concern to residents. The community members took pride in the appearance of their homes and felt that “nuisance properties” had a detrimental impact on property values. For instance, with little attention paid to consistent and full-time enforcement, unlicensed and inoperable vehicles were being parked on front lawns, refuse carts with heaping bags of garbage were being left at the curb for days at a time, and in some cases, grass and weeds were unattended through the warmer months by the property owners. As enforcement became inconsistent and sporadic, chronic violators were not deterred or compelled to clean up their properties. Budget and time constraints caused the police response to become primarily reactive, but bringing in the police cadets brought a more proactive problem- solving approach to a chronic problem.
Students trained in the Police Cadet Program perform in a quasi-law enforcement role. In Allouez, the cadets were deployed in unmarked squad cars to specific geographic areas. By driving through portions of the village, the police cadets recorded problem properties in violation of local ordinances. Next, the cadets sent warning notice to the property owner, and requested compliance within 5 working days. Cadets were also encouraged to develop innovative solutions to the problem and to collaborate with village staff and the property owners to seek a resolution. In one case, the student learned that overgrown grass was not being maintained because of the recent disability of the homeowner. This prompted the cadet to seek out neighbors who agreed to take turns mowing the lawn each week. Further, the cadet learned of additional resources in the community (such as Meals on Wheels) and made a referral for this individual.
Cadets are expected to utilize effective communication skills and a professional demeanor in dealing with members of the public. In some cases, the property owner fails to comply with the warnings sent by the cadet and will not respond to repeated phone calls or home visits. The cadet is then expected to confer with local law enforcement and provide documentation for a summons to be issued. Cadets are expected to give testimony in cases heard before Municipal Court, and submit relevant evidence to the Village Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
Students participating in the Police Cadet Program benefit in learning to problem solve in the community and think critically; key components to performing successfully in the law enforcement profession. They are also required to understand and then apply a working knowledge of the law in the performance of their duties, a skill not easily taught in the classroom. In addition, students learn community policing in action and, in particular, how to partner and interact with the true customers of their services – the residents of the community. They must maintain a calm and professional demeanor even in the face of anger and hostility. The experience provides students with effective communication skills, the recognition of the importance to collaborating with community partners, and a measure of self-confidence that will prove to be beneficial toward their chosen profession.
The benefit to the community is that a much needed service is provided at no cost. With the exception of uniforms, purchased through fundraising efforts by local businesses, the cost to taxpayers is minimal related only to fuel consumption and depreciation of the vehicle being used. Given their success in code enforcement, the duties of the cadets have been expanded. Cadets now patrol village parks on bicycles, have set up traffic radar on main thoroughfares in the village – resulting in warning letters issued to vehicle owners, provide victim escorts to court hearings, and perform house checks for residents who have gone on vacation. This program would not have been successful without the support and commitment of the Village of Allouez and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department. Based on the overall success of the police cadet program, the Sturgeon Bay (Wisconsin) Police Department has established Community Service Officer (CSO) positions similar to the NWTC Cadet Program. The CSO Program will perform ordinance enforcement, bike and foot patrols, assist duty officers at special events, and undertake parking enforcement.
The police cadet program has many benefits. It not only provides students with an opportunity to gain valuable experience at no cost to the jurisdiction they are assigned, but it also trains police officers in the spirit of service.
This Community Policing Success Story was submitted to us by the Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College. If you have a success story that you think others could learn from, we invite you to send us an e-mail with your idea at CPDispatch@usdoj.gov. If it is selected, our staff with follow up with you to help turn that idea into a story the Dispatch can share.