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Major Donations Give Much-Needed Boost to Police Cadet Program

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By Jorge Casuso

September 21, 2022 -- Four major Santa Monica-based businesses have donated a total of $400,000 to expand the Police Cadet Program decimated by budget cutbacks made during the coronavirus shutdown.

The record $100,000 donations to the We Are Santa Monica Fund were made by Douglas Emmett Inc., one of Santa Monica's largest property owners; Ocean Avenue LLC, which owns the Fairmont Miramar Hotel; local developer Jeff Worthe, and Macerich Management, the owner of Santa Monica Place.

The donations will be used to boost participation in the 45-year-old program, which saw the number of cadets plummet -- from 21 before the COVID emergency to six, according to a report to the City Council.

The Council on Tuesday is expected to approve the first $100,000 appropriation to support hiring five cadets who would be paid the City's $18.17 living wage, or about $18,000 each, for the first year of the four-year program.

The remaining balance would would help pay for additional expenses, which include specialized training and equipment, funded by the Police Department's existing budget.

"All four donors have heavily invested in and contributed to our community as property owners and business owners with their company headquarters located in Santa Monica, and they collectively employ hundreds of people in the city," staff wrote in their report.

"These generous donations demonstrate their commitment to giving back to Santa Monica residents by supporting citywide public safety and providing opportunities for local college students to gain valuable job training in the Cadet Program."

The fundraising effort was spearheaded by Jordan Kaplan, the President/CEO of Douglas Emmett Inc., who in April approached the City and "expressed interest in raising funds to support SMPD and enhancing public safety," according to the report.

Staff indicated that "any such charitable contributions would be best utilized to help restore the Police Cadet Program."

After Kaplan committed to donating $100,000 to the We Are Santa Monica Fund, he "pledged to challenge several of his peers to match his donation," resulting in an "extraordinary outcome of an additional $300,000."

On June 8, the fund's advisory board composed of seven Santa Monica residents unanimously approved accepting the $400,000 total donation.

The sudden influx of funding comes as the Police Department is grappling with a record shortage of officers ("Santa Monica Police Force Faces Record Shortage of Officers," April 15, 2022).

Over the past two years, the number of new officers sworn in plummeted from 49 recruits between 2017 and 2019 -- or an average of 16 a year -- to seven in 2020 and five last year.

"The Cadet Program’s initial goal was to help attract and keep new police recruits to the Santa Monica Police Department," staff wrote in the report to the Council.

"The Police Cadet expectations are high morals, excelling academically, using good judgment, and being active in the community.

"SMPD Cadets who decide to advance in public safety careers typically perform very well in civil service testing processes."

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