The following statement was presented by Assistant Chief Johsua Ederheimer to the District of Columbia Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, Honorable Phil Mendelson, Chair, on October 23, 2007, at the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.
Good afternoon Chairman Mendelson, members of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, and guests. My name is Joshua Ederheimer, and I am the Assistant Chief over the Professional Development Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department. Thank you for allowing me to testify today about the Police and Fire Cadet Programs Amendment Act of 2007, Bill 17-238. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) supports the proposed legislation and sees it as way to strengthen both the Police and Fire Cadet Programs.
Before we talk more about the legislation, I think it is important for the Committee to understand how the Police Cadet Program functions. Currently the program is headed by Inspector Lillian Overton, and managed by a lieutenant, with the assistance of 3 sworn members not permanently assigned to the program. Under the current law MPD is permitted to hire District residents who are seniors in District public high schools and District residents who are graduates of District high schools up to the age of 21. As such, the Cadets range in age 17 to 20 years old.
There are currently 30 cadets in the Cadet Training Program. Prior to the last quarter of FY 07, the total number of cadets that MPD was authorized to hire was 9. In FY 07, MPD successfully reinvigorated the program and received authorization to increase the number of cadets from 9 to 30; the funds to hire the additional 21 cadets are available in the 4th quarter of the fiscal year.
The cadets work about 20 hours a week, helping the MPD fulfill our mission by rotating through a variety of assignments while simultaneously gaining valuable exposure and experience within the Department. Cadets convert to career police status upon completion of their Associate Degree program and enter recruit training to become a sworn officer. The current criteria to participate in the MPD Cadet program include:
- Enrollment in a District of Columbia High School or have a diploma from a District of Columbia high school or receiving a GED issued by the District of Columbia;
- Passing a background investigation;
- Possessing the minimum physical requirements;
- Receiving an acceptable assessment of high school/college academic record
- Proficiency in English and Math.; and
- Passing the college entrance examination administered by the University of the District of Columbia.
Based on the salary scale that became effective October 1, 2006, the starting salaries for MPD cadets range from a DS-4 salary of $25,312 to a DS-6 salary of $30,332, with the number of college credits previously earned being the determinative factor. Those who enter the program without any college credits are expected to earn 20 college credits during each year of the 3-year training program. Cadets who come into the program with 21 college credits can be hired at a DS-5, while those who enter with 41 college credits can be hired at a DS-6 salary. The majority of cadets are hired at the DS-4 salary, and thus far, there has not been a cadet at the DS-6 salary. Upon entrance into the program, cadets are enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) to pursue an Associates of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice. Any cadet who enters the program with 21 or more credits is expected to earn their UDC Associates Degree within 1-2 years before transitioning into a Recruit Officer.
The proposed legislation would require the Department to pay all cadets 60% of the starting salary for members of MPD. We believe that our current pay scale, with salaries that escalate upon completion of each year of the program, serves as a more appropriate incentive for recruitment and retention purposes.
The Department does have a few other concerns about the bill as written. Section 2(b), would require MPD to automatically offer interim employment to cadets who have completed the program but have not reached the age requirement for the Academy. MPD would like all of the cadets to transition into the Academy; however in the interest of public safety and the successful transition for the participants, it is better to consider all factors influencing performance, before a cadet is offered employment as a member of MPD and MPD should retain such discretion.
The cadet program is currently open to high school seniors and young people between the ages of 17 and 21. The proposed legislation would change the criteria to include high school juniors. We do not believe that the program will be as beneficial to a younger group. We currently allow senior level high school students who have a half-day schedule to participate in the program. This insures that cadets have an appropriate amount of time to truly benefit from the program.
A pre-cadet program would provide students with an introduction to MPD and would be more appropriate for students in their junior year of high school and below. We suggest that this type of program be coordinated with DCPS and the Boys and Girls Club to allow students to learn about public safety careers earlier in their education. Expanding the Cadet Program in an effective manner will increase the pool of talented recruit officers from the District of Columbia who are available to our agency in the coming years, so it is an important investment in the Department’s future. It will also lead to more District youth benefiting from access to employment opportunities, secondary education and a career in public service. This would truly be a win-win opportunity.
In Section 2(a)(2), the legislation provides that the cadets participate in 10 hours of training per week to be paid by the Department of Employment Services (DOES) In-school program. It should be noted that currently, MPD cadets are compensated through our budget, unlike the FEMS Cadets program that already receives a portion of funding from DOES.
Finally, MPD would also request that the Council consider allowing 10 percent of the cadet slots be open to children of MPD employees. A number of our members have inquired about having their children admitted to the Cadet program and we believe that it will show our members that we support them and to help to establish a continuum of exemplary public service.
I probably don’t need to explain why continuing to expand the MPD Cadet Program is a positive move for the City and for our young people, but I would like to highlight two reasons in particular. First, while participating in the program, students work at a number of offices in the Department ranging from the Office of the Chief of Police to the Academy. Second, we are extremely proud to have a number of cadets who have continued on to have successful careers at MPD, including Commander Robert Contee, Commander of the 6th District.
I would like to commend and thank the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary and all the Councilmembers for proposing this important legislation to help the Department and the City continue to encourage young people to pursue public safety careers in the District of Columbia, a goal the Fenty Administration wholeheartedly supports. I am happy to answer any questions that you have.