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Sergeant looks back at academy training

Interviewed as a cadet in 2013, CDCR catches up with Sgt. Melendez

Video by Jeff Baur
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Meet Vanessa Melendez, a CDCR Sergeant committed to ensuring people interested in becoming Correctional Officers are screened in a comprehensive background investigation.

In 2013, Melendez was a cadet herself, going through the Richard A. McGee Correctional Training Center in Galt. Toward the end of the academy, Melendez and her fellow cadets participated in chemical agent training, where they experienced the effects chemical agents used in incident responses have on the body.

It’s an experience Melendez said she’d never forget when she was interviewed about it in 2013, and as she rises through the ranks at CDCR she said that hands-on training has been valuable no matter the position.

Melendez is one of many women at CDCR dedicated to the Department’s public safety and rehabilitation mission. To learn more about becoming a Correctional Officer, visit

The video is also available on YouTube.


Sgt. Vanessa Melendez

My ambition is one thing that really drives me. Some may say I’m a fast tracker. I’ve been with the department since 2013.

I started as a cadet and I accepted a position at High Desert State Prison. I was lucky enough to qualify to take the Sergeants exam. I took the Sergeants exam. I ranked. I interviewed and they picked me up there.

I had the opportunity to interview for a background investigator position, still working as a Correctional Sergeant, and they picked me up here and now that’s where I am.

So our biggest thing here is to clear suitable candidates. Definitely feels full circle with such short time in the department. It’s a very unique position to be in.

You guys are more than welcome to take notes on this…

Our main responsibilities are to touch bases with the applicants, ensure that we’re getting everything that we need from them. We conduct character references.

Through the background process we have specific tools that we work with, the CVSA, which is sort of like a lie detector test.

I think that the biggest thing is just communicating with the applicants and ensuring that they fall under the characteristics that we’re looking for.

As a specialized unit, we’re required to qualify quarterly.

I was not the greatest shooter coming in to the department. I progressively got better.

So it’s actually, it’s fun now. Now that I can shoot I actually have fun with it.

Training Sergeant

Melendez, what’s your first name?



Voice off camera

Try not to think about it, mind control, mind control.


It was an interesting reaction. I had no idea that it would be disseminated statewide.

(From original video): It’s just instant burning…

Having, you know, hit my boots on the ground at the institution and having people recognize me was…it was interesting (laughs)

(cadets yelling, coughing)

I got teased a lot. I felt like I had, you know, a hundred older brothers just kind of, you know, giving me a hard time about it.

Voice off camera

Whoa…face the wind. (coughing)


It was a fun experience. I will…I will never forget that. Ever.

Just breathe. You’ll get through it. (laughing) That’s what I kept thinking.

(From original video): Yeah, it burns. (laughs)

The biggest reason why I applied for this department is because of all the different avenues that you can get in to.

You pave your way. You allow your work ethic to push you forward. You work hard, you will shine.

I love my job. I have a lot of fun doing it. (laughing)

I’m a very active individual. I’m a very hands-on person and I also like the ability to connect with my community and using my badge as a platform is huge for me.

The people I work with are awesome.

I don’t know exactly where I’ll be but I definitely know that I will take advantage of the opportunities that come my way. Definitely.