Police Cadet Program back; diversity is key goal

For more than 30 years, the Boston Police Cadet Program served as a pipeline to bring local young people into the police force and better involve the neighborhoods with the officers who served them. Discontinued in 2009, the program has been reinstated and officials hope it will help to boost diversity in the lower ranks while giving 18 to 24 year olds a leg up into what can turn into a long law enforcement career.

“We have to reflect the community we police,” said Commissioner William Evans, a former cadet himself.

The city’s Workforce Report, which was released in April, highlighted diversity issues in city departments, especially police and fire. Boston is 53 percent African-American, Hispanic, and Asian, but the report showed that the numbers are heavily weighted toward white workers.

Though not as imbalanced as the 72-percent-white Fire Department, the Police Department is still predominantly white at 66 percent, the report showed.

Historically, there have been difficulties with getting diverse young people into the, as a combination of civil service exams and veterans preference policies limit hiring options. “The majority [of current recruits] are unfortunately not African American,” Evans said.

Dealing with the diversity situation was one of the driving forces behind reinstating the cadet program, which was cancelled six years ago for financial reasons. Increased minority representation on the force was the original goal of the program at its inception in 1978, although there were significant concerns after two decades regarding favoritism and politicization of the selection process.

“Recruiting and cultivating diverse talent to the Police Department is a top priority of my administration,” Mayor Martin Walsh said in a statement announcing the program. The Workforce Report “served as a blueprint for where we are in city government when it comes to race and diversity of our workforce. When we worked with the City Council to include funding in this year’s budget to bring back the cadet program, I knew it was the kind of investment that was needed to build our community up, and create pipelines to success for all of Boston’s young aspiring officers.”

The cadet program is well represented at the top of the Boston police command. Among the field of former cadets are Evans, Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross, Superintendent of the Office of the Police Commissioner Kevin Buckley, and Lisa Holmes, superintendent of the Bureau of Professional Development.

For Evans, growing up in South Boston and with a brother already on the force, law enforcement had always been a plausible path. He joined the cadet program in July of 1980, and worked there for just over two years before he became an officer.

He manned the 911 call center, ran the mail, sat at the front desk taking reports and interacting with the public. The cadets perform a number of lower-level departmental roles for which there are not always enough full-time officers to fill, said police department spokesman Lt. Michael McCarthy. Evans said he hopes to hire 50 cadets in the new program, adding that the hiatus meant “we lost an important source of pretty good labor.”

The program is a minimum two-year-commitment of full-time work, but Evans said the department will try to be flexible with those who need it – students, for instance. “Cadets get to learn all the facets of the job,” he said. They will be placed and rotated throughout the department, performing jobs such as routine clerical and administrative duties, answering phones, data entry, traffic duty, and barrier work, according to the mayor’s statement.

Applicants will sit for the cadet exam on Nov. 14 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. It is a pass-fail format, so of the applicants who pass, administrators will be able to hire a cadet field that more accurately reflects the city’s diversity, McCarthy said.

Passing the test is only the beginning, as cadets then go through drug tests, rigorous background checks, a physical, and finally embark on eight weeks of training before settling into the program.

The department hopes to attract a large pool of applicants, ambitious and dedicated young people, Evans said, adding that racial diversity and residency are the major pushes in this iteration of the program.
The residency requirement has been upped to five years, rather than the three years prescribed before the program’s discontinuation. “We need the ability to get city kids who are invested in the neighborhood, who know the neighborhood, onto the job,” he said.

Dates and places for interested parties to keep in mind: The deadline to apply is Nov. 1, and the exam will take place on Sat., Nov. 14 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.  Applicants must be US citizens with valid Massachusetts drivers licenses. To apply, visit cityofboston.gov/jobs or call 617-343-4677.