LRPD brings back cadet program with creation of telephone reporting unit

One of six cadets part of the Little Rock Police Department's new Telephone Reporting Unit fields a call about a man whose lawnmower was stolen from his house. (Photo: KATV)

After a 15-year hiatus, the Little Rock Police Department has brought back its cadet program, and they've put cadets to work helping to ease the burden on patrol officers and the city's 911 communication center.

If you call the LRPD non-emergency line between the hours of 9:30 AM and 6:00 PM, you'll likely speak with one of six young adults between the ages of 18 and 21. They're part of the department's cadet program and are playing a big role as LRPD's new Telephone Reporting Unit.

"With the conception of this it was thought that this would be a way to take calls off of patrol and also calls off of communications, all in an effort to still give the citizen what they need, but maybe not with a unit coming out and them waiting for that unit," said Sgt. Dewana Phillips, supervisor for the new TRU.

While they're there, cadets field all police-related 311 calls and non-emergency calls with the ability to take simple reports over the phone that may at one point have required an officer to be dispatched. Cadets can't field just any call, but delayed reports of auto breaking and entering, credit card fraud, non-injury hit and run accidents, and theft reports are just a few of the calls they can take and create one less report for already bogged down patrol officers.

Phillips said while cadets may predominantly be behind the desk, they do get to tag along with officers on duty from time-to-time, but their phone work is giving them a hands-on opportunity to learn major skills when it comes to being a police officer.

"Sometimes we get people [who call] here who are angry," said Sgt. Phillips. "It happens on the streets as well. They learn to deescalate and those kind of things over the phone."

"They're getting to know the who, what, when, why - the questions to ask, the questions not to ask - how to indeed write a police report," said Phillips. "So they're getting a heads up about how to interact with the public, how to interact with our community."

The cadet position are paid, with most cadets hoping to gain that real-world experience to give them a leg up when they're able to take the police academy entrance exam. Police academy applicants have to be at least 20.5 years old in order to apply.

As a reminder, the Little Rock Police Department non-emergency line is 501-918-4397.

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