Sioux Falls Police partnering with Southeast Tech to build pool of recruits

The Career Cadet program pairs students with seasoned officers to learn how law enforcement works while earning college credit.

Students in Southeast Technical College's law enforcement science program pose for a photo with a cruiser.
Contributed / Southeast Technical College

SIOUX FALLS — The Sioux Falls Police Department and Southeast Technical College are teaming up to provide students a pathway toward a career in law enforcement.

The Career Cadet Academy is a two-year program that will provide police training for students who want to better understand the field.

“What this centers on is the need for the police department and the community to do some workforce development and create innovative approaches toward producing law enforcement officers for our community,” Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum said during a joint press conference on Thursday, March 23. “It’s a different pathway and opportunity for individuals interested in a career in law enforcement to join us as a part-time employee while they receive an education as they grow academically, personally and professionally.”

Lt. Rob Forster said the academy would pair cadets with seasoned officers to learn the ins-and-outs of city government as well as how the Sioux Falls community operates. In addition to the experiential learning, students will earn 12 credits toward an associate’s degree from Southeast Tech.

“We’re prepared to support these cadets based on need and eligibility with all their basic needs that arise,” Forster said. “Different partners have stepped up in the community to help out with those life obstacles that may come up for certain people that may not have a path into this career, and we want to give them that opportunity.”


Several members of Southeast Tech's leadership team, as well as staff and faculty of the law enforcement science program, attended Thursday’s press conference. Britney Mower, dean of curriculum and instruction for professional studies, said the college is “thrilled” to work with the police department to make the academy a reality.

“It’s imperative that we create academic programs that are invested within our communities that are in high-need, high-demand, and that are career-focused and are supported by our workforce,” Mower said. “The career cadets program with the Sioux Falls Police Department will provide an opportunity for students to engage in community outreach with local law enforcement while the students are pursuing an associate degree in law enforcement science, all while boosting our workforce within our region and the state.”

Because cadets will be considered part-time employees, Thum said applicants will be subject to the same hiring process the city already uses, including background checks and drug screenings.

Students in Southeast Technical College's law enforcement science program stand beside a newly branded cruiser in December 2022.
Contributed / Southeast Technical College

The position is paid, with an advertised rate of $17.51 an hour. The job description indicates that cadets could work as many as 28 hours a week for the duration of their time in the academy. Meanwhile, positions for full-time officers are being advertised between $29.50-34.11 with a $5,000 sign-on bonus.

“These applicants aren’t necessarily hired as police officers for our department. They’re cadets, and this is a way to develop people for the profession,” Thum said.

Earlier this month, Thum said the agency has few problems hiring qualified officers, adding 35 to the ranks in 2022. That bucks the national trend, as many communities are struggling to find new recruits.

Even if these cadets aren’t hired in Sioux Falls, Thum said the academy could help support the profession elsewhere.

“We’re looking at how this serves not just the department, but the community, the region and the profession as a whole,” Thum said. “At a time when law enforcement numbers are dwindling … we want to find a way to support the profession, and this partnership with Southeast is certainly one way to do it. We’re excited to see how it develops from there.”


More information on the program is available on the SFPD website.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021 and now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on local news in Sioux Falls. He also writes regional news spanning across the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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