Agency’s Explorers Program offers young people hands-on experience in all phases of law enforcement.
Irmo, SC (James Bowers) - The opportunity for high school and college students to gain real, useful experience in their desired occupations is extremely sought after in today’s educational landscape. Explorer programs, sanctioned by Boy Scouts of America-affiliated organization Learning for Life, have given young people a chance to witness and participate in the activities of those employed in fields such as law enforcement, aviation, and engineering for decades.
One “Post," the name the scouts use when referring to a specific Explorer group, is located right here in Lexington County at the Irmo Police Department. The program is overseen by IPD Sergeant John Hendricks, a public safety veteran who also has experience as a teacher and coach at the high school level.
According to Hendricks, participants in the program are exposed to multiple facets of law enforcement. They stay busy riding along with certified officers and learn skills such as dynamic building clearing, conducting “high risk” traffic stops, and writing citations and accident reports. Their participation is limited and tightly controlled to ensure the young participant's safety.
Hendricks added that for every exciting situation these young kids encounter, there are some forms and paperwork to be filled out just as officers are required to do during their daily shifts. Documentation of activities is a critical part of the law enforcement process. “The more fun you have, the more paperwork we generate," Hendricks joked.
The program also consists of physical training such as distance running and resistance exercises. Sergeant Hendricks states that students may be eligible for academic credit from their school for participation.
All explorers share “common goals” for development of their personal and professional lives, such as becoming more “civic minded." While most participants are definitely striving to become police officers themselves, there are some who aren’t necessarily looking to don a badge and uniform in the future.
Hendricks cites one student who is already studying for a mechanical career, but is one of the most senior explorers. Regardless, any student who joins the program receives beneficial experience and skills from his time as an Explorer.
While high profile incidents of police brutality have grabbed the nation’s attention and caused some to take a negative view of law enforcement personnel, Hendricks says that this has not hurt interest among young people in a public safety career. “The response (to the program) has been largely positive. With everything there will be naysayers, and I’ve talked to the kids about that, but it just runs off their backs, because they know what they’re doing is right,” Hendricks said, noting a possible lack of attention toward positive actions by lawmen among the mass media.
While the program director strives for a meeting with his post every Sunday, he says that he and his students' schedules do not always make this possible. Hendricks, in addition to his role with the Explorers, carriers out the regular duties of an Irmo Police officer.
Irmo Police Chief Don Perry and Sgt. Hendricks hope that more students will join the Explorers' post. They are both optimistic about the future of the program and the young people who are participating now and in the future. Seeing kids become more “civic minded” is something that Hendricks noted as particularly rewarding.
Young people between the ages of 14 and 21 are eligible to become Explorers. For more information about becoming an Explorer, call the Irmo Police Department at (803) 781-7050 or email Sergeant Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.