The Law Enforcement Explorers Program educates and involves youth in police operations and interests them in possible law enforcement careers, but above all, it teaches life skills to arm them for whatever they choose to do. Youth ages 14 to 20 are eligible for the program, and inability to pay the participation fees is not a barrier, thanks to the generous support of donors to the program through the SLC Police Foundation. The SLC Police Department provides this program for the benefit of the community, especially to create opportunities for young people to gain important skills and have a positive interaction with law enforcement officers. The current class of Explorers has 68 members, 70 percent of whom are female. Explorers are enrolled from all areas of Salt Lake City, and from many minority groups.
Youth who participate in the program attend year-round, weekly training classes which teach the Explorers some of the same skills needed in law enforcement. These skills include physical conditioning, first aid, crime scene techniques, firearm safety, and traffic control. They engage in learning valuable lessons in team building, communications skills, responsibility, and respect. Training in skills and practices which can be used to help them prepare for future employment, such as resume writing, interviewing skills, and preparation for promotional testing, are also part of the curriculum.
Perhaps some of the most effective and important aspects of the Explorers program are the off-site camps they get to attend. For many of these youth, these camps are the only opportunities they have to experience the camaraderie and bonding that comes from learning together in week-long, intensive training adventures. One example is a week-long Mini Police Academy camp, an intensive introduction to basic policing skills. Others include regional Explorer events such as ExCon, where Explorers and their advisors compete against other Explorer groups in marksmanship, drilling, and other events. They also are given the chance to attend a yearly High Adventure camp, for which they raise tuition money.
The Explorers also learn the value of giving back to their community by engaging in many non-paid community service activities. Some of these include maintaining the Utah Fallen Officer Memorial near the state capitol building and participating alongside police officers in providing traffic control for large events in the city such as LDS General Conference and the Salt Lake City Marathon. A special Explorers Honor Guard provides flag ceremonies for many functions in Salt Lake City and beyond. Explorers also perform many troop-generated service projects. Last year, the Explorers sponsored by the SLC Police Foundation contributed over 7,500 hours of service to the community.
The Explorers Program has the power to change the lives of young people, especially those who have few positive role models. As one Explorer alumna, now a Sergeant in the with SLC Police Department explains, “I had many trials as a child. I grew up in a broken home. My parents used drugs and they eventually got divorced. I spent some time in foster care. I’ve never had a positive influence in my life and [Explorers] was finally the start of something good. I have learned so much from the Explorer program and from the officers we are surrounded by every day. The most important thing I have learned is that you can do anything. The Explorers and advisors will push you and help you achieve those goals.”
The Explorers Program also has a powerful effect in creating positive bonds between the Police Department and the community. Another former Explorer explained, “This program is important because of the message it sends to the general youth population. Many kids I know have the idea that Law Enforcement is bad. But interacting with police officers gave me a whole new perspective. The people in this program are some of the best people around, and the bond that we have is indescribable.” The Explorers program is powerful in creating mutual understanding between law enforcement and the community.
Police officers, too, love the Explorers program. Detective Veronica Moulay, an Explorer adviser says, “The most rewarding part is being around the youth, and knowing that you are being a great influence on them. It’s important that they feel we are there for them.”