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Port St. Lucie Police Department revives cadet program to attract recruits

Program pays recruits 95% of starting salary while they attend police academy
Posted at 4:03 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-16 17:31:55-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Police agencies, like many businesses, are struggling these days to fill open positions.

However, the Port St. Lucie Police Department is reviving an old program to recruit new officers.

Officer Luis Canedo was recently sworn in to protect and serve the citizens of Port St. Lucie.

"I'm the oldest of four siblings, so I've always had a serving attitude and a want to help people and be there for those that need it," Canedo said.

Officer Luis Canedo, Port St. Lucie Police Department cadet
Officer Luis Canedo explains why he choose to join the Port St. Lucie police cadet program.

He said it was much easier to join the force after learning about the department's reborn cadet program.

"I didn't have to stress about how I was going to pay bills throughout the process," Canedo said. "I could focus on schooling and doing well and succeeding and thriving."

Cadets are put on the payroll while they're in the police academy, earning 95% of the starting salary.

Port St. Lucie, like many other law enforcement agencies, is looking to fill positions. Right now, they have 16 vacancies.

"You know, in 1980 when we started, we were 16,000 residents with nine police officers," Assistant Police Chief Richard Del Toro said.

Del Toro said the city's massive growth means a beefed-up force with 270-plus sworn officers now, with a need for more.

Assistant Police Chief Richard Del Toro discusses department's cadet program
Assistant Police Chief Richard Del Toro discusses why he hopes the program will benefit both the city and cadets.

Once a cadet finishes the training program and passes the Florida Department of Law Enforcement certification exam, Port St. Lucie does a second background check.

"We hope this is going to be a successful marriage for 25-30 years," Del Toro said. "We hope the person is meeting our needs, and we’re meeting their needs from a career standpoint."

For Officer Summer Labarbera, it was a no-brainer to stick with Port St. Lucie after a past internship here.

Summer Labarbera, Port St. Lucie police cadet
Summer Labarbera is among those participating in Port St. Lucie police's cadet program.

"The main thing is you're going around the community, and you’re helping people," Labarbera said.

Port St. Lucie is still considered a young department, so it is only now going through its first wave of retirements and attrition. And as its population continues to grow, the need to bring on new officers is paramount.

"Supply and demand issues, so we're having to make those changes in order to stay competitive," Del Toro said.

"Being the best cadet that I could be, which would translate into being the best officer I could be," Canedo said.

Click here to learn more about job opportunities with the Port St. Lucie Police Department.