SANFORD, Fla. – How does a police department hire the best police officers while there’s a shortage of officers nationwide?
Candidates are flooding the Sanford Police Department with applications because the department sponsors cadets with their training.
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Rookie officers Mike Colon and Ricardo Pacheco just graduated from the police academy, paid for entirely by the police department.
“After one year in Seminole County Corrections, I saw that Sanford was offering a sponsorship,” Colon said.
An Army veteran, New York native and a brand new dad, Colon otherwise wouldn’t have had the time or money for the police academy.
“With them paying for everything, it pretty much reduced the amount of stress as far as trying to take care of a family or an outside job and trying to make ends meet,” Colon said.
Most police departments do it the other way around — they wait for recruits to graduate from the academy before they extend offers. But in a climate where fewer people are choosing to become police applicants, hiring is difficult.
Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith decided if he could pick the best candidates, put them on the payroll and then send those recruits to the academy, he’d get better officers.
Colon and Pacheco were selected out of around 100 applicants.
At the academy, Colon ended up as the class leader.
Pacheco, who grew up in Sanford, is also a new father and was sworn in alongside his father and grandfather, still living in Sanford.
“I only applied for the place that I grew up in and I was blessed enough to get the job,” Pacheco said.
Sgt. Dr. Tina Leman is in charge of Sanford Police Department’s Cadet Program and oversees all of the applications.
“It’s definitely a game-changer,” Leman said. “It increases the trust between law enforcement and community by creating those relationships, by bringing people that they have grown up with and seeing them now in this law enforcement professional role.”
Both officers said they understand what Sanford now expects of them.
“They’re holding us to a higher expectation and we’re just trying to give that back to them to assure them they made the right choice by selecting us,” Colon said. “By doing (what) we’re supposed to do, being proactive, reaching out to the communities.”
The police department is going into its fifth cadet class. Since the Cadet Program started in 2019, the department said it has sponsored 16 cadets, three of whom grew up in Sanford.
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