At a time when law enforcement agencies across the country are struggling to recruit and retain officers, there’s no shortage of people vying to work at the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office.

More than 30 applicants recently participated in a full-day competition of sorts to earn an opportunity to be selected to be an ICSO cadet. Cadets are paid a full-time salary while they complete Basic Law Enforcement Training at Mitchell Community College.

During the event, participants took a written test, completed the standard physical fitness assessment and were evaluated on their marksmanship at the shooting range.

“It’s everybody for themselves,” Sheriff Darren Campbell told the recruits who gathered in the ICSO meeting room.

The cadet program, Campbell said in an interview, allows the ICSO to attract recruits from a variety of backgrounds who have the potential to be great deputies but who cannot afford to quit their jobs while they are training.

The current group of recruits are from Iredell, Wilkes, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Catawba and Caldwell counties. 

“This allows us to recruit the best candidates for Iredell,” Campbell said.

An impressive group

The applicants supported and encouraged each other throughout the day. A few fell short on the written test and a handful could not complete the fitness assessment, but those who were still in the running at the end of the day were an impressive group.

Mooresville resident Chase Schneider was one of the 32 applicants at the start of the day. He absolutely crushed the physical fitness test and is planning to step away from his roofing job and complete the BLET program, regardless of whether is chosen, starting in January.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid,” the 20-year-old said.

Austin Mendenhall, who lives in Yadkin County, plans to be the latest of many in his family to take an oath to serve and protect. His father is a retired state trooper and two cousins also work in law enforcement.

An East Carolina University grad who has been working as a substitute teacher, he scored a perfect 20 for 20 at the shooting range, and he finished the fitness test in about half of the time allotted.

He’s committed to working in law enforcement and said getting selected for the cadet program would be “the cherry on top.”

Jackie Garcia, who graduated from Wingate University in December of 2022, has been working as the manager of a car wash in Statesville. Through that position, she has met and gotten to known many officers who encouraged her to consider a career in law enforcement.

“I believe God put me at the car wash to meet them,” she said.

She’s inspired to make a difference.

“I just want to work in a career where I’m putting good back in the community,” Garcia explained. “This is one of the careers where I feel I can do that.”

‘A blessing’

Deputy Jacob Greene completed the BLET program in September as a cadet. At age 26, he said getting paid to complete the extensive training program was “a blessing.”

“You don’t have to worry about your finances,” he said. “They treat you as an employee, as a co-worker.”

Greene has been on the job now for more than three months and has received extensive training under the supervision of his field training officer. As part of that training, he has logged shifts in the jail and courthouse, worked as a school resource officer, assisted in criminal investigations and helped the warrant squad and civil division.

“I absolutely love it,” Greene said. “You’re trying to help people. You want to keep them safe.”