Carolina Allen said getting tased and pepper-sprayed in the face actually isn’t all that bad – when you do it as a group.
“We were all right there together. It was a great bonding experience,” said Allen, a 2018 Creswell High grad who’s going through the hiring process to become a Lane County Deputy Sheriff.
That hiring process is quite thorough. After the initial application, there’s a physical agility test, a written test, an oral test, a review panel, an extensive background check, then medical and psychological exams. Only then do you get to complete your “Path to the Badge,” which includes a series of tasks like 100 hours of ride-alongs, jail time and, of course, being tased and pepper-sprayed.
Allen, 21, is a product of the new Lane County Sheriff’s Office Cadet Program. Up until two years ago, it was known as the Explorer Program.
“Many of our deputies were involved with the Explorer Program,” Sgt. Scott Denham said. “It was for 16-21 year-olds, you could learn the basics of the job, do ride-alongs … then the program was suspended.
“But when new Sheriff Cliff Harrold and Chief Deputy Carl Wilkerson took over – they were both part of the Explorer Program – they both asked how we could get it going again. We needed to make a few changes, and we decided to go with this Cadet Program. So we came up with an application process – and made it for 18-21 year-olds – and we got 25 applicants!
“From there, we whittled it down to 13, then down to six. At that point we knew we got the six most qualified people for the program.”
This was the second Cadet class, so now there are 10 cadets in the program, including four from Creswell – Allen, Jaxson Wilkerson (Carl’s son), Isabella Ramirez and Timoteo Cruz. All went to Creswell High School except Cruz, a Creswell Christian Academy product.
Denham said it’s encouraging to see so many talented, motivated kids stepping up and wanting to become police officers.
“With all the shortages we’re facing, we have to grow our police force from within,” Denham said. “If we have cadets that are not ready, they can transition over to our Volunteer Reserve Program,” which is currently eight strong, he said.
Taking on a career as a young police officer has to be daunting, with protests and rallies, some violent, locally and across the country. Allen said it motivates her.
“I knew that as these issues were happening, it only helped to solidify what I wanted to do with my career,” Allen said. “I think it’s important to be a part of your community, and play an active role in that community.”
Once Allen is hired, she will start at the Lane County Jail, then she can apply to be a regular patrol deputy.
“Unlike the Explorer Program, we arrange for Cadets to work in the jail as well as doing ride-alongs,” Denham said. “They must maintain a 2.5 GPA, stay out of trouble, remain hard-charging when they’re 21. … We made a six-month rule. These guys were so hard-charging they made it in four.”
Also earning their badges were Ashley Garibey, Courtney McCall, Violet Douglass and Jahneya Santolaja, all of Eugene, and Peyton Smith and Bryan Stark, both of Junction City.