In an effort to recruit new students and encourage current police cadets, leaders of the police cadet program held their first police cadet leadership conference Sunday at Palms Court Harborview.
The police cadet program, run by the Bureau of Crime Prevention, has been around for years, but was revamped a year and a half ago and is actively recruiting high school seniors interested in the criminal justice field for its second class. Partnered with the University of the Virgin Islands, cadets in the program receive free tuition in exchange for five years of service in the V.I. Police Department.
To qualify for the program, students must have a 2.5 grade point average, letters of recommendation from their school principal and guidance counselor, a good school record, and a clean juvenile criminal record. Once they meet those requirements, students must complete a 21-page application that also includes a 250-word essay and a background check. They are then interviewed by a board of officers, where their answers and demeanor are scrutinized.
"The goal is to target young people who want a college education in order to achieve a smarter police force," said Jeremy Donowa, a police cadet who is currently a freshman at UVI’s St. Croix campus.
Both Donowa and Sherrika Industrious, a cadet sophomore at UVI’s St. Thomas campus, work three days a week for the Crime Prevention Bureau, spending time learning different areas in the bureau. Donowa is studying criminal justice and Industrious hopes to be a forensics psychologist.
Sgt. Bridget Conow, territorial supervisor of the Crime Prevention Bureau and territorial coordinator of the cadet program, dedicates herself to helping the cadets overcome obstacles. Cadets are given a black-and-white copy book that includes a photo of the cadet and their personal status record.
"When you come to us from where you are right now, we want you to improve yourself and where you are going," Conow said. The copy book helps them track their progress.
She makes many calls to ensure things happen for her cadets, and she works to keep them inspired and on the right path.
"The police department is a service department, and the better the service, the happier the community will be," Conow said. The police cadet class motto is "Ready to Serve."
Army Brigadier General Timothy Lake, the conference’s keynote speaker, made a special trip home to deliver an inspiring message to the group of approximately 35 V.I. youth. Lake, one of the youngest general officers in the U.S. Army today, heads to Cuba Nov.1 to serve as deputy joint task force commander of Guantanamo Bay. He is bringing with him 73 members of the V.I. National Guard, who will occupy or support senior staff positions.
Born and raised in Savan, Lake started as a Boy Scout and then spent his high school years in the Junior ROTC program. After completing four years of college with a degree in industrial technology and the honor of distinguished military graduate in the ROTC program, Lake joined the Army, moving steadily up the ranks during his 24 years of service.
His service career highlights include serving as President Bill Clinton’s communications officer and then commander of Camp David during the Bush administration.
Lake told the young attendees to chart a road map of where they want to be tomorrow and then down the road, figure out how they are going to get from Point A to Point B, and to continue to challenge themselves and do the right thing. He stressed the importance of reading.
"To be successful and to cross that finish line, I have to be aware of what is going on locally, nationally, and internationally," Lake told the cadets. "I need to read, not spend 12 hours looking at a TV screen."
He questioned a few of the students about their future plans before offering parting words of wisdom: "Focus, develop your road map, and listen to your heart and your brain."
Ronald Hatcher, a retired police officer brought back to the force a week ago as the director of the Crime Prevention Bureau, was the police cadet supervisor in 1969 and plans to work hands on with the cadets.
"I am sure that these kids will be a paradigm for other kids and then it will be self-perpetuating," Hatcher said. "Cadets brought other kids with them today who had to be influenced by what they heard."
In fact, Cristeen Rogers, a senior at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, attended the conference with friends who were police cadets, and because of what she learned at the leadership conference, has decided to apply for the program.
The leaders of the police cadet program plan to make the leadership conference an annual event.