I spoke with Sgt. Frank Stilson, program coordinator of JMU’s Cadet Program recently. Formed in the mid-1970s, the Cadet Program is composed of student police cadets who perform different security duties on campus. Here’s what he had to say:
What is the main mission of the Cadet Program?
It’s not limited to just criminal justice studies students, but it’s oriented for justice studies students to give them an inside look of how law enforcement [works] especially if they’re looking at that as a career. It gives them the internal workings of how a police department functions. They also have a set of duties they take care of … They secure the academic buildings, the patrol campus — the campus is broken up into five areas — and they’ll call in suspicious activity or if a door’s open or a window’s open and they shouldn’t be open or something like that. They also provide safety escorts, both on foot and by vehicle. We have a vehicle designated for safety escorts.
How are the students chosen? Are there certain things that you look for?
We like for them to be a sophomore, only because they’ve had a year of getting acclimated to the college life … You don’t want a freshman to come in and start working and get bogged down with school, when they can’t, you know, time management skills. By the time you’re a sophomore you got that. They say you’re supposed to have it down to a science, but you don’t, I mean you know, everyone’s cramming for studying and stuff … but anyway, they have to have a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
When you see the criminal justice major on their application, does that enhance their chances on getting accepted?
No, absolutely not … We don’t know what their major is until they come in for the interview process. So it’s just, I mean, any student can apply and as long as they meet that criteria, you know, and they haven’t been in any trouble, they’re usually hired.
What training do the cadets go through?
They usually hold [the police cadet academy] on Sundays and depending on — ‘cause they have refreshers too … ’cause we constantly have students coming and going, some students, you know, we hire a student, they work for a couple of months and decide it’s not for them … Most of the students that are hired stay with the program and you know, they appreciate it.
We’ll go over mostly what their duties are. We have people from different departments come in and talk to them like the OSARP will come in and talk to them, talk to them about what their job duties are.
What is the time frame for a shift?
Weekdays they’re required to work two nights a week, one weekday and one weekend and our weekends, their weekends are Thursday through Saturday, ‘cause, you know, Thirsty Thursdays, so … Sunday through Wednesday, the patrol shift is seven to twelve, unless they’re doing building security — which we refer to as K-5 — or escorts where they’re driving the van and giving safety escorts. Those shifts run ‘til 2 a.m.
The cadet unit that is locking all the buildings can leave once all the buildings are locked, but buildings have different hours. There’s a lot of buildings with computer labs that don’t even start locking until 12:30. So it’s right around 2 a.m. if they’re walking on foot.
And on weekends they work 9 to 3, 9 to 3 a.m.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part for me is when our students graduate and they go on and get jobs and you see them a year from now or two years from now, three years, and I mean, I’m friends with a lot of cadets that were, you know, in the program, even before I was in charge of the program.
I have to add this too, every cadet that has applied for a job in law enforcement, has gotten hired.
Overall, what do you want the readers of 22807 to know about the Cadet Program?
Some of the students look at them as … ‘police snitches’ or something like that and that is, that is totally not correct. That’s not what they’re out there for. They’re out there to, you know, help make the university safe … We’ve had students call in, you know, when suspicious individuals that have actually broken into buildings, stolen items and were captured and prosecuted because the cadets were there and called it in.
Photo by: Kate Desmond