Explorer Post Helping Train Kids In Field Of Police Work
By BETTY WATERS
CHANDLER -- Young people, both boys and girls, receive ample opportunity to learn about all aspects of law enforcement through an explorers post sponsored by the Chandler Police Department.
"It gives them a feeling of accomplishment, not like in school or in a sport activity, but something in a career field," said Patrol Officer David Patterson, leader and senior advisor of Chandler Police Department Explorers Post 1721.
"Once they finish the training, they are going to feel like they've accomplished something not only in a career field in the community but for themselves," he said.
The post came into existence in early 2000 under the umbrella of Circle 10 Boy Scouts Council of Dallas in the Learning for Life Program, which explores different professions.
The post number is the badge number of Police Chief Ron Reeves in honor of Reeves, who was chief executive officer at the time and has been on the police force more than 30 years.
The explorers are ages 14 to 20. To be eligible for membership, they must have completed the eighth grade and maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or better.
Youngsters in the explorer post when it started grew up and went into various careers.
"They've done really good for themselves. Some came back and said if it hadn't been for the explorer program, they wouldn't have gotten to where they had gotten to," Reeves said.
As they matured and got too old to participate, the post fell into limbo for two or three years until its revival during the past few months.
Last Christmas, Reeves' granddaughter, Alissa Smith, asked why the police department didn't have the explorer post now.
"I said I haven't had anybody interested in it," Reeves said.
She not only expressed interest but within 15 minutes had assembled five friends -- enough to recharter the explorer post. The group has grown and is expected to number about 15 explorers by summer.
Miss Smith, chief of the explorers post, said Thursday she wanted to learn how to be a police officer, the fundamentals and to be able to help her community.
Miss Smith, 14, said, "It's helped me to kind of get out of my shell because I'm not a very outspoken person, and this is one of those things you have to get out of your own space and you have to go out and you can help people."
The explorers have uniforms funded in part with donations and in part with money the explorers earned.
They meet the first and third Thursday of each month at the police department, plus participate in a Saturday training session at least once a month that lasts five to eight hours.
The training session is held rain or shine because police officers work rain or shine, heat or snow, sleet or hail.
A recent training session involved scenarios for traffic stops, ranging from a routine traffic stop to stopping a driver who was aggressive and argumentative.
Once they complete six months of training and police feel they are ready, they will ride along in a police car with an officer on patrol.
But police say they are careful not to put them in harm's way.
The idea behind the ride-along program is to let them actually see what an officer does, Patterson said.
"They will be learning all the different aspects of what we (police) do in the field, not just the paperwork part of it," Reeves said.
The explorers study the written law, how the law works and the process and court system a person who makes a mistake must go through, he added.
Kayla Doty, 14, said she likes learning about criminal justice, how to make an arrest and how to handcuff a defendant.
"It's pretty cool," she said.
Josh Pike, 18, said he joined because his goal is to become a state trooper.
Pike said he thinks he would like the experience of being a law enforcement officer, dealing with different people and helping the community.
Breann Greenwood, 14, also wants to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Miss Greenwood said she joined explorers because she thought she would enjoy it. So far she has liked the training for traffic stops, how to handcuff people and how to assess situations.
Meetings follow Roberts Rules of Order, start with the Pledge of Allegiance, motto, a prayer, business, financial report and then a study session ensues presented by Patterson. The explorers take notes and at the end take a short test.
They can earn merit badges for meeting certain criteria of learning, attendance or community service.
Eventually they can participate in state and national competitions in police work.
Training is only part of what the explorers do; they also perform community service.
For example, they assist with traffic control for funerals and the Pow Wow festival.
"It's a learning opportunity; they have responsibilities throughout," Reeves said. "It gives them an idea of what they might want to do in the future with their lives. Whether they want to be in law enforcement or anything else, it doesn't matter because we are teaching discipline, pride, all the aspects of growing up and having responsibilities."
They may decide law enforcement is a career for them or they may realize they weren't cut out to be a police officer, Reeves said.
Patterson is working to set up a curriculum later that will be honored as college credit.
The exploring program offers scholarships to anyone who wants to follow in a law enforcement career.