Don’t think of yourself as stereotypical police cadet material? Then you might be just the kind of person SA Police is looking to recruit.
South Australia Police (SAPOL) continues to recruit motivated individuals from all walks of life.
SAPOL’s new ‘You Belong in Blue’ recruit campaign is designed to build an increase in applications to the police service while making it a more welcoming workplace for officers who are as diverse as the SA communities they serve.
Provided you’re fit, community-minded and driven, there’s nothing stopping anyone from becoming a police cadet, says SAPOL Executive Director of People, Culture and Wellbeing Kim-Sherie Summers. “A role in policing is for anybody,” and our state’s police “come from all walks of life but they share a common passion, to support the community of South Australia, particularly those most vulnerable”.
The You Belong in Blue campaign launched at the recent 2023 Adelaide Footy League’s men’s grand final. The partnership with the league aims to highlight how teamwork, leadership and resilience are key to being both a good footy player and a good officer.
A diverse bunch of SAPOL officers feature in the campaign ads you’ll see around town on billboards and the side of buses, highlighting the fact your cultural background and social orientation is welcome here.
Here’s the lowdown on what’s happening that might make becoming a police officer something to consider.
You can now study policing at high school
In an Australian-first, students can start their studies towards becoming a police officer in high school next year.
Through Thebarton Senior College’s new Pathways to Policing Program, year 12 students will undertake specific courses designed to prepare them for a career with SAPOL. The program provides a faster, easier route into policing, and in the longer term SAPOL plans to make it available at more SA schools.
Police will be involved in the school program to provide guest speakers, visits to the Police Academy and police stations, plus work experience. Coursework will be five SACE Stage 2 subjects, including a research project, information processing and publishing, essential English, workplace practices, and fitness and wellbeing.
The program is currently taking applications and will start in 2024. Find more details here.
What it’s really like at the Police Academy
Extra cadet courses mean 900 police officers and over 250 police security officers will graduate from the academy and start their careers with SAPOL over the next three years.
Senior Constable Kate Dawson, 34, has been with SAPOL for 15 years and started her training at the Police Academy when she was 19. She says it’s “sort of like being at uni”.
“You’re back in the classroom, and you just learn lots of different things,” including “lots about legislation … and preparing documents for court”, as well as teamwork and the police computer systems,” she said.
But it also involves hands-on exercises to put cadets through their paces in real life situations. “There’s a whole scenario village so you get put through different scenarios,” Kate says. Plus “you have to keep fit so there’s a gym and an obstacle course”.
More than one third of our police are women
Historically, SAPOL has led the way in gender diversity. In 1915, it was the first in the nation to appoint women police officers and in 1999 it was also the first to appoint a woman to a tactical response group.
Kim-Sherie says SAPOL has faced diversity challenges head-on, and is proud of what it’s achieved, including a 50/50 recruitment strategy since 2016, and a 2021-2025 Diversion and Inclusion Strategy. Females now equate for 37.3 per cent of active SAPOL employees. A diverse workforce is a better workforce.
“I think we’ve moved out of the 60s and 70s now,” Kate added. “I’ve never had any issues being a female in the police. You just get treated like a sister really. Everyone looks after each other. I’ve never felt discriminated against. Being a woman you can do as much as the men can.”
A more diverse look for a more diverse service
A sign of the times at SAPOL is a recent relaxation of the dress code. Hair standards are now gender neutral, and visible tattoos are officially okay (as long as they’re not offensive, of course!).
“Overnight, we grew a lot of man buns, and sleeves got rolled up really fast, our new “You Belong In Blue” campaign reflects this change” says Kim-Sherie.
Cadets don’t need to be straight out of school either. Some apply as the result of a quarter-life crisis, and some because they want a career change in their mid-30s. More than 49 per cent of applicants are aged 18-25, the average age of cadets is 28-30 and there’s also the occasional 50 year old in the mix.
Regional SA recruits are especially welcome
While applications to SAPOL from country SA are up, Kim-Sherie says they’re still considered low, we understand that it is a big deal for a young person to relocate from the country to Adelaide for training at the academy.
To break down this barrier, a cost of living allowance is available for people who are relocating to undertake academy training and SAPOL will also provide subsidised accommodation for those in need from regional South Australia for the duration of their training.
What to expect as a police officer
Senior Constable Kate Dawson says she would have jumped at the chance to take part in the Pathways to Policing program if it had been available when she was at school.
“When I was in year 12, all I wanted to be was a police officer,” Kate says. “It was appealing to me because I’m active and outdoorsy, … sporty and I think I’m a natural leader. I did lots of volunteering when I was at school, so knowing that it’s a job where you can help the community was something I found appealing.”
After graduating from the Police Academy, every SA police officer starts out the same way – as a patrol officer. Kate started her stint on patrol at Parks Police Station near Port Adelaide and then was posted to Port Pirie and Victor Harbor.
“Day to day you work in a larger team with like-minded people, other patrol officers and one sergeant. You shift and respond to jobs as they get called in when people call triple zero … and then you head out and deal with whatever the job is,” Kate says.
“You never know what’s coming. Like in the next 10 minutes even, everything’s different. You constantly have to think on your feet. Sometimes they can be really good jobs, some are bad, but it’s really rewarding.”
Kate says the best thing about being a police officer is forming a close bond with team members and camaraderie shared with colleagues. “It’s like a big family really,” she added.
All up, more than 40 police specialities are available at SAPOL, from working in crime scene, dog operations, prosecution, or water operations to being a mounted officer – the opportunities are endless.
If You Belong In Blue, find more information on applying here.