Alumni Return to Campus as Police Officers

Group photo of police cadets.
This article originally appeared in UC Davis Dateline.

By Cody Kitaura/Dateline

Students face some unique pressures, and more and more UC Davis police officers know exactly what those students are going through — because they were in their shoes not long ago.

Group photo of cadets.
The first class of UC Davis Police cadets — including Catalina Hernandez (front row, center) and Jose Pinedo (second row, left) — graduated in 2013. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

“It feels like just yesterday when I’d be busy all day doing homework or preparing for a final,” officer Dylan Fakhimi said. “Now I walk around and I see other people going through the same thing — I can connect with them.”

Fakhimi, who graduated in 2014, is among eight UC Davis police officers who went through the department’s Cadet Academy — a three-month training to give students a look at what a police academy is like — and were hired after graduation (and after completing a standard police academy).

It’s part of a program designed to build stronger ties between the department and campus, and it’s bringing on more and more officers with deep connections and recent memories as undergraduate Aggies.

Officer Jose Pinedo, who graduated in 2013, said he still sees professors he had or people on campus he worked for — and it has only deepened his connection to UC Davis.

“That’s what helped me love this job even more,” he said. “I was able to help these people I was peers with.”

And the former cadets said trading their textbooks for badges felt natural.

“When I got back I felt like I was at home, but I had a different purpose,” Fakhimi said.

Pinedo said the first arrest he made was an alleged bike thief, and the owner of the bicycle was a friend he’d made as a student.

“It was a symbol of, ‘Yes, this is the right place for me,’” he said. “I’m able to give back.”

Photo of Catalina Hernandez.
Catalina Hernandez is now a police officer at her alma mater. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The Cadet Academy, established in 2013, teaches students some of the basics of policing, but it’s not just running laps and memorizing the Penal Code — cadets also cook meals at a Woodland homeless shelter and visit the county jail. A similar program is offered for community members.

Interim Police Chief Jennifer Garcia said the Cadet Academy has created ideal candidates for the department.

“We want people who have ties to the university community and want to stay here, but also understand university life,” she said.

The most recent cadet class — 18 students — graduated last month. That same night, the department welcomed three new officers, including Ibrahim Desouki, a 2016 Cadet Academy graduate who graduated from UC Davis the same year.