35 cadets graduate from Wake Tech BLET as Triangle police departments look to fill vacancies

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Tuesday, June 13, 2023
35 cadets graduate from Wake Tech BLET as departments step up hiring
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As Police Departments try to increase hiring, 35 cadets graduate from Wake Tech's Basic Law Enforcement Training.

As police departments across the Triangle face shortages, the graduation of a new class of cadets from Basic Law Enforcement Training is providing aid to local and state agencies.

"We're actually partnering with smaller agencies in the county. We're finding that there's a real shortage in law enforcement right now as far as employment. So what we're trying to do is help them, supplement them, by training these officers," said William Potter, the Director of Commissions Programs at Wake Tech.

According to Attorney General Josh Stein's Office, 506 fewer recruits took the BLET exam last year compared to 2019, and there were 492 law enforcement separations than new appointments across the state in 2020 and 2021.

Graduates shared why they wanted to join the law enforcement ranks.

"Just through the military, I learned to be very empathetic with people. So that kind of helps you to portray that you care more. And I think that's really what law enforcement needs to portray is that we care and we're there to help and really just kind of getting that message through to the communities that we're not the enemy, we're here to help you," said Nicholas Johnson, who previously served as a military police officer and is joining the Wake Forest Police Department.

"The neighborhoods I worked in or grew up in, (they weren't) the best of neighborhoods. But the officers in the area always treated us with respect. I always came across school resource officers who always had the utmost respect for us. So it was like a calling. Truly a calling," added fellow graduate Fabienne Pierre.

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"We want to be very reflective of the community."

Four of the cadets are set to join the Cary Police Department, decreasing the number of officer openings to 18. Chief Terry Sult said they offer incentives to officers to assist with recruiting, adding their full-staffing level is 200 officers.

"It's really important to note that when we talk about diversity, it's not just race or ethnic diversity. We talk about geographic diversity, we talk about educational diversity. We want to be very reflective of the community," said Sult.

Officer pay has consistently been listed as a reason behind hiring challenges. Stein has called for expanding the Criminal Justice Fellows Program, launching a public awareness and out-of-state recruiting campaign, and offering bonuses for graduates of the BLET Academy, as well as out-of-state transfers and former military police.

"We're not really in this type of work for the pay. It's for the service. But then again, you know, you got bills to pay. So it's always good to get a good wage to be in this type of a profession, especially when you put your life on the line," said Lt. Joe Bright, who is a Wake Tech Coordinator with the BLET Academy.

The BLET Academy includes 768 hours of training for cadets, who need to pass a Police Officers Physical Ability Test in order to graduate. The next round of BLET training at Wake Tech begins in July.