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September is National Preparedness Month. Kimberly Shliff writes about being a student contributor to college preparedness as a police cadet.

What It's Like to be a Police Cadet at Waubonsee

How many times have you been asked what exactly your plans were for after college? Do you know what you want to do for a career? Have you thought about becoming a first responder? If you have, you should look into the Waubonsee Community College Cadet Program. My name is Kimberly and I want to be a first responder. I am twenty years old and just about finished with my Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. My plan is to become a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and apply for a fire department. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always been interested in the world of first response; whether it be firefighters, paramedics, or police officers, I was so enamored by the responsibilities and the job of our heroes that I decided to follow in their steps.

Waubonsee Community College is a wonderful educational institution. From the clean, modern campuses to the affordability and flexibility of its programs, Waubonsee exceeds all others. Another area that Waubonsee also surpasses expectations in is its campus safety and emergency preparedness. The police department and the college’s emergency management have done an excellent job in designing a quick response to each kind of emergency and situation. I have watched these response tactics and resources grow and adapt in a short time, showing that Waubonsee Community College is malleable and capable of efficient and prompt updating of its resources and staying committed to ensuring the safety of the campus.

The college is home to its very own fully-functioning police department, equipped with experienced and dedicated police officers with all the responsibilities and capabilities of any other police department. Along with the police department’s responsibility to protect our beautiful campuses, they have also graciously provided our full-time Criminal Justice students with an opportunity to try their hands at becoming a police officer through the Police Cadet Program. This program is designed to teach young students aspiring for a career in criminal justice by preparing them for their future in the field and exposing them to the various facets of the job.

A lot is expected of us as police cadets. In the eyes of our officers, we are the future of law enforcement and the way they train us directly reflects on the college and on themselves. Those are just a couple of reasons why our training is so beneficial to us and why the Cadet Program is so unique. The officers take pride in their training of us and apply their wholehearted effort into teaching the cadets everything and anything that they have learned from their many, many years of law enforcement experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a Waubonsee Police Cadet and will continue to enjoy it until I must hand in my uniform.

Through my time here, I have earned multiple qualifications and gained very valuable experience that will assist me in my future as a first responder. Before earning the right to wear the uniform, our cadets must be certified through the American Heart Association in CPR and in first aid, which we endure long hours of training to receive. On top of this, the cadets are entrusted with oleoresin capsicum spray (better known as OC spray) as a protective measure for ourselves. Qualified professionals do all our training to ensure we are prepared to assist our officers in an emergency. Cadets are shown how to handle situations professionally and, most importantly, how to treat people with respect no matter the problem.

My first aid training comes in very handy, and this has proven to be true many times throughout the course of my experience as a police cadet at Waubonsee. Just recently, there was a student that stepped on a nail on campus while conducting a research lab with her biology class. After finding her and taking her back to the police department, I had to treat her wound to avoid infection and any further damage. The only way I knew how to take care of an open wound properly was due to my training in first aid. I could explain to the student what I was doing with her wound, why I was doing it, and was even able to instruct her how to take care of it when she went home.

Even though I am leaning towards becoming a firefighter and a paramedic, the Cadet Program still helps me gain the proper experience to enter a career in first response. Other local police departments, including Montgomery Police Department and Batavia Police Department, call upon the Waubonsee Cadets to assist them in a multitude of events. I have had the privilege of taking part in Liquor Compliance checks with Batavia Police Department, and I also was allowed the opportunity to work with the Montgomery Police Department during Montgomery Fest this past August. Anytime we get to work with the police departments around the area, we can make connections, friends, and gain exposure to the world of policing that is exclusive to the Cadet Program.

We are also required to be students while we work for the college, which gives us the exclusive opportunity to represent law enforcement to our peers. Interacting with the community here at the college is beneficial to both the cadets and the students alike. Many people have negative contact with law enforcement, such as a traffic stop or perhaps as a victim or even a suspect of a crime…but when we intermingle with the students while we are on duty, we are given the chance to show a different side of law enforcement. While we help students on campus, we share our knowledge of things with those students and teach them emergency preparedness skills, too.

Not too long ago, the campus police were called to help a young student who had locked his keys in his trunk. I responded to the call and, upon arrival, found out that the student’s car was already unlocked, but he knew his keys were in his trunk. Instead of trying to pry the trunk of the car open, I showed him how to pull down his back seat and use the trunk escape handle inside the car to open his trunk. He was thoroughly surprised! I was glad to have taught him something new that might save him some trouble in the future. Events like this make the Cadet Program very special. Truly, the Cadet Program teaches Criminal Justice students what it takes to become a first responder and assists Waubonsee Community College in maintaining its safety and security.

Kimberly Shliff

Police Cadet

Waubonsee Criminal Justice Program