Stop. Before you read on, take a moment. Think back, or maybe way back for some, to when you first knew you wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement. What factors in your life pushed you to accomplish your goal? What drove you to take the first step toward where you are today? How old were you? And who was influential in helping you make that decision?
Our Department’s Explorer Program is designed to educate youth ages 16 through 21 by developing an interest in law enforcement while instilling life skills such as leadership, academic excellence, respect and physical fitness. The program also works to develop relationships between LVMPD and the community’s youth. Our Explorer Program offers specializations in Police, Corrections, Dispatch and Crime Scene Investigation that further allow members to experience exactly what those career paths are all about.
The program is certainly unique in many ways and affords young adults from across the valley opportunities that they may otherwise not get. They learn basic procedures and even some advanced tactics based on the program they’re assigned to. Explorers participate in observations throughout the Department, including ride-alongs and sit-alongs. They learn firearms fundamentals and participate in an annual Explorer academy. They participate in community service activities throughout the year and help our Department during most community events. Explorers travel across the country and are put to the test against members of other agencies’ programs during scenario-based competitions. Each of these opportunities allows our Explorers the chance to experience this career for themselves so that when the time comes, they may make an educated decision about pursuing this profession.
I knew I wanted a career in policing after becoming an Explorer with the Ann Arbor (Michigan) Police Department and going on my first ride-along at a young age. I was captured by the excitement of patrol. I remember getting to use the radio for the first time, getting to activate the emergency equipment while rolling Code 3, and watching officers interact with one another and the public. Looking back, each of these things was small, and as a police officer today they have become routine. But at the young age of 16, nothing could compare to it. Nothing came close to the feeling of donning my bulletproof vest and my crisp uniform and sitting in the passenger seat of a patrol car for a shift.
While I enjoyed learning how police conduct a vehicle stop or respond to calls for service, most of all, I enjoyed the officers. To me, my advisors made the program what it was. I looked up to them. I saw their dedication and their genuine interest in helping each of us. Our advisors were motivated to see us succeed and provided us with opportunities for success by teaching us professionalism and how to conduct ourselves on and off duty. Our advisors taught us pride and what it meant to be part of something larger than ourselves. They taught us how to work toward a greater mission. We traveled. Our advisors took us to new places and showed us that there was more to the world than just southeast Michigan. They gave us direction in life. They also showed us that there was more to life than policing and that having a well-rounded outlook would, in the long run, help us. In every way, our advisors helped us to achieve our goals.
The Explorer Program undoubtedly helped me obtain my career, and I always vowed that once I was able to, I would become involved so that I might give back to a program that helped get me where I am now. Today, as an Explorer advisor, I see my teenage self in the young Explorers. I think back to when I was in their place, with so much ahead of me and so much to learn. I remember what it’s like to be an impressionable young adult and to want nothing more than to be a cop. Today I see how excited they are to attend weekly meetings and learn all about this fulfilling career. I see the pride they have in our Department and the community we serve. I see our Explorers transform and gain confidence, respect and maturity as they grow older. Their drive to succeed, pursue their goals and achieve a career with this agency is awesome to watch, and giving them the tools they need to obtain the job while watching them build upon those is truly inspiring. And of course, watching your former Explorer graduate the Police Academy, knowing that you helped cultivate that desire, that persistence, that drive, is a unique experience in and of itself.
Throughout its nearly 35-year history, the LVMPD Explorer Program has seen countless successes. Hundreds of former members have gone on to pursue law enforcement careers, both civilian and commissioned, with this agency and others across the country. For those who didn’t, they learned valuable attributes that have helped them land successful careers in various other fields. The program has received national recognition during competitions and P# 13417 conferences and has been a model for other programs.Advisors play an essential role in this program: We lead, direct, guide and of course advise our young adult members. While the Explorer Program is largely managed by the Explorers themselves, our advisors are the ones who provide weekly instruction. Advisors come from sections and bureaus all across this Department, including patrol and corrections officers, detectives, SWAT operators, crime scene analysts, dispatchers and civilian support staff. They volunteer their time and are able to provide specialized instruction based on their current and past assignments. They give the Explorers the opportunities to see that this career has so much to offer, and give them long-term goals to pursue. Advisors are the lifeblood of the Explorer Program.
Interestingly, becoming an advisor will also offer you the opportunity to develop your career. You’ll have the chance to lead and supervise others in both large and small groups. You’ll gain experience in teaching. Being an advisor will allow you to improve your tactics while on the job, because by training Explorers you’ll see exactly where common mistakes are made. As an advisor, you’ll be motivated to perform your job to the best of your abilities, knowing that you have a group of young adults who look up to you. Their excitement will remind you why you chose this career and why this job is better than any other.
So as you read this, think about that group of teenagers who are striving to obtain what you have: a career with LVMPD. We all have demands both in and outside of work, and yes, being an advisor takes time and dedication. But consider helping out as much as you can, even if it is only a little bit. Consider being that advisor whom Explorers want to emulate, that role model who offers guidance and direction. And think about the feeling you’ll have when you see that you’ve inspired just one young adult to discover a career in law enforcement.
For more information on how you can become involved in this worthwhile organization, please email Explorers@LVMPD.com.