He's only 17, but Tom Holt knows he wants to be a Lodi Police officer. He's been a member of the department's teenage Explorers, and now he's one of the first to take part in a newly revamped cadet program.
Rather than just riding along with police officers and occasionally helping direct traffic, Holt will soon be able to patrol on his own and take police reports.
Last week, he was one of five cadets to receive badges from Chief Jerry Adams. Five more cadets are finishing the background process and two just completed it, said Sgt. Bill Alexander.
"They will provide a lot of volunteer hours and provide a service to the public," he said.
The Explorers program, which was limited to teens between the ages of 14 and 19, has been disbanded, and cadets are now between the ages of 16 and 24.
Cadets must stay in school until they receive a college degree - Alexander encourages a bachelor's degree - and must maintain a 2.5 grade-point average. In addition, they must pass a background check that verifies their "moral character" and "good standing in the community," said Alexander, who oversees the cadets.
Once accepted into the nonpaying program, cadets must buy their own uniforms and volunteer a minimum of 16 hours per month.
For Holt, who has a year left at Lodi High School, that's not a problem. His goal is to go into law enforcement, and he wants the experience.
"I just want to work my way up as high as I can - get my degree in criminal justice, then go to the police academy," he said Thursday.
New cadet Steven Baxter, who will turn 18 in a few days and is already attending Delta College, is still leaving his future career goals open. But he was in the police academy at Lodi High School and was interested enough to become a cadet.
Unlike the Explorers, cadets are more committed, Alexander said. The fact that they're willing to pay roughly $200 for their own uniforms is proof.
In addition to giving future police officers a glimpse at real law enforcement work, the cadet program will help current officers.
The staff of 78 sworn officers has two vacancies, and two more openings are expected to soon open due to retirements, said Capt. Larry Manetti.
Though cadets will not make arrests or pursue speeding motorists, they will be able to take some reports.
Lodi Police Department cadets, from left, Erika Urrea, Mindy Dumlao, Thomas Holt, Kyle Slater and Patrick Cary hold their new badges. (Dan Evans/News-Sentinel)
For example, Alexander said, if someone loses a cell phone and needs a police report for insurance purposes, a cadet will soon be able to take the report and free up an officer. The police department handles an average of 150 calls for service each day.
In addition, the cadets will have police radios and will be able to contact dispatchers if they see something out of the ordinary while on patrol.
Like the department's Partners, cadets will use marked volunteer cars, as opposed to black and white patrol cars, Alexander said.
The Partners, who are all retired, generally work during the day unless called out for special assignments. Cadets, however, will also work at night, patrolling in pairs after 10 p.m.
Though the program is only a week old, some of the cadets have already started working, and their enthusiasm had not faded.
Holt is looking forward to turning 18, when he'll be allowed to patrol on his own.
Those interested in becoming cadets may pick up an application at the Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Pine St. or contact Sgt. Bill Alexander by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 333-5514.