The sun shone at Glendale Community College as Art Darbinian, 19, waived to fellow students and maneuvered the tram he uses to help monitor the campus as a cadet at the school’s police department.
“One of the things I love about my job is that I really get to see the inter-workings of the college,” the biology student said, nodding hellos to custodians and staff as he rattled off the building names and areas where he often patrols.
Darbinian is one of 15 cadets at GCC, working part-time to help bolster the college’s full-time police department. The cadets patrol parking lots, supplement traffic control and check buildings for security. They also report any suspicious activity.
“They are the eyes and ears of our department,” said GCC Police Chief Gary Montecuollo. “They are wonderful men and women and provide a real support system.”
The cadet program has been around since the 1980s, and often employs students with an interest in law enforcement. Cadets have gone on to work for the Los Angeles Police Department, Coast Guard and Border Patrol.
“Getting to work next to officers… it’s a great policing experience,” said Senior Cadet Nick Allen, 22. “It gives us a chance to get our feet wet and it gives us an edge with the degree and the experience.”
While Allen dreams of becoming a canine unit officer with the LAPD, not all of the cadets chose police work. The program is meant to help students decide upon their calling, and the current cadets have a wide variety of majors, including music, math and science, Montecuollo said.
“The real benefit of the cadet program is it allows them to see if this is something they want to do,” he said. “The whole point is to discover and learn. Some decide not to pursue it and that’s OK”
Christina Chung, 23, was one of those students. She took an active role in the arrest of an alleged graffiti vandal at GCC with the tag name Boris in 2012.
Chung was in class and noticed a young man nearby working on drawings similar to the graffiti plaguing the school. She alerted the GCC police and the case was prosecuted.
“We were looking for a tagger, and it was just all over his notebooks,” she recounted.
Chung ended up doing a stint as a jailer at the city of Glendale, where she realized the aggression police sometimes have to endure might not be for her. Currently, she attends Northridge University as a sociology major, but still commutes to GCC to maintain her cadet job.
“She is a wonderful success story of the cadet program,” Montecuollo said. “She has been unwavering in her work and willing to go the extra mile.”
Montecuollo hopes to increase the cadet program by up to 10 students next year, and include bicycles into the patrol program. All cadets must undergo a rigorous background check, be actively enrolled in college courses, and maintain a GPA minimum. They are paid between $10-$15 dollars an hour, and are given parking at the campus police station.
All of GCC’s current full-time police officers were former cadets, Montecuollo added.
Camila Castellanos is a freelancer writer.