KOKOMO, Ind. — When Anahi Santos and Olivia Feltenberger look for their first post-college jobs, they won’t just have Indiana University Kokomo degrees.
Both will also have graduated from the IU Police Academy, and have more than a year of on-the-job police experience after serving as cadets with IU Police Department (IUPD) at Kokomo.
“Being a cadet is a one-way ticket into policing,” said Feltenberger, a criminal justice major from Peru. “They set you up for everything you need to do. You’re expected to work for it, but they will help you through the program.”
Feltenberger and Santos are currently at the IUPD Academy, with graduation slated for August 12.
Santos, who earned her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in May, was glad to gain the experience while still in school.
“It was an opportunity for future growth and development, not just in professional skills, but personal skills,” she said. “It’s a way to gain these skills while still completing a degree.”
Kevin Summers, an officer with IUPD at Kokomo, said the cadet program provides on-the-job training for future law enforcement officers, allowing them to work alongside experienced personnel.
“The IU Cadet Officer Program is the only program in the U.S. that allows you to be a full-time student while earning a college degree and becoming a certified police officer in Indiana,” he said. “It really gives them the opportunity to set the stage to graduate with a full Indiana law enforcement credential, ready to begin work.”
Because they will have that credential, he said, a law enforcement agency that hires them will not have to pay for them to attend the 12-week Indiana State Police Academy and will be able to have them working almost immediately, rather than waiting for them to complete the program.
“It really enables them to come out and jump right into the workforce,” he said, adding that cadets are paid student workers, with uniforms provided. “Coming in with a degree and experience, they will be highly marketable to the IUPD and any police department if they choose.”
He noted that cadet alumni have gone on to work in multiple area law enforcement agencies, including with the Howard County Sheriff Department and Kokomo Police Department. One former officer, Emily Doran, now serves with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and another, Dallas Snell, was the Frankfort Police Department Officer of the Year for 2022.
Cadets for the 2023-2024 school year include Lainey Armes, Tipton; Clarissa Kepner, Alexandria; Trenton Rawls, Kokomo; and Sam Robinson, Camden.
Feltenberger hopes to be a detective in the future and said being a cadet has already helped her make contacts that can help her advance toward her future goals.
“The biggest advantage of the cadet program is networking,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to work for the Kokomo Police Department, and I’ve been introduced to people there through our department. I’ve made contacts I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
As cadets, the students have duties including answering emergency calls, performing building checks, escorting students to their vehicles as requested, responding to any accidents in the parking lot, writing parking tickets, providing security at campus events, and shadowing campus police officers.
Feltenberger said the mentoring from experienced officers has been invaluable.
“We get to talk to full-time officers who have been through the academy, who have been through the police hiring process,” she said. “We can talk their ears off with questions, and they’re more than willing to listen and give us answers.”
Santos, from Frankfort, said she thinks some students find cadets more approachable than the full-time officers, because they are peers.
“Even if I’m out of uniform, a lot of students know who I am, and see me as someone who can help them,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot about how to help people resolve problems and gained a lot of tools to use when we become officers.”