»Marijuana fields, high risk warrants and crisis negotiation were just some of the scenarios handled by CV Sheriff’s Explorers.
By Mary O’KEEFE
Once again, the Arizona desert was the scene of a tactical competition that tested the skills of law enforcement Explorer cadets throughout the United States. Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Explorers were one of the 63 Explorer posts that participated in the Chandler Tactical Competition in Chandler, Ariz. last weekend.
The annual event, held in Chandler since 1999, has the Explorers respond to specific real-life scenarios with judges observing and scoring their actions. The scenarios challenge Explorers to use their training in areas including rapid response, serving a high risk warrant, and crisis negotiation, just to name a few of the exercises.
The purpose is not only to test what they have learned over the years of training at their own station, but to also see how they work as a team.
For the past six years, Steven Cronkhite has been a CV Sheriff’s Explorer and has participated in the Chandler competition. This year was the first time he attended as an observer. Cronkhite “aged out” of the Explorer program this month and is now waiting to attend the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Academy. Explorers are aged out at 22 years old.
Instead of hands-on participation, Cronkhite watched the Explorers conduct the scenarios, listened to the judge’s comments and then, along with Dep. Jeff Martin, Explorer Assistant Advisor, shared his own observations.
Transitioning from participant to observer was a little difficult at times, but Cronkhite knew this was his new role in the program.
“The [team] was excellent. We had a new commanding officer who brought a different [perspective] to the post,” Cronkhite said. “He did very well.”
The new commander was Lt. Christian Herrera, who has been with the Explorers for four years.
“It was difficult because Steven had literally just aged out, so we were going to the biggest competition of the year and I am a new [commander],” Herrera said.
In addition, several Explorers on the Crescenta Valley team were new to the competition. Despite the new commander and some new members, Herrera was proud of the results.
One of his favorite scenarios was the marijuana field raid.
“We got a tip there was a marijuana field,” Herrera said.
In the scenario, the informant told the Explorers that the suspects were growing and preparing marijuana for sale at the field. However there was a catch.
“As it turned out, our informant got into an accident and was in the ICU,” he added. The informant was no longer able to relay information to the team.
This was a twist to the scenario that tested the Explorers’ training and instinct on how to handle this type of situation.
They placed third in this competition. In addition they received a second place trophy in Hogan’s Alley and Robot Operations and fifth place in the Under Cover Operations.
Herrera said the scenarios and competition help their post reach their potential. For him, personally, it was a time to command and to show Cronkhite and Dep. Martin that he was ready to be the post’s captain. He is preparing for the captain’s test and will hopefully be able to step into the leadership role for the post.
Both Herrera and Cronkhite said the Explorer program has been invaluable in their lives, although the early stages are a challenge.
Explorers must attend six months of Saturdays at the academy. It is a military environment in which the rigid rules at times are difficult for teenagers to deal with, but to see the program through brings a sense of accomplishment.
Cronkhite added through the program he has learned the power of respect.
“[At school], I show a greater respect for teachers and professors,” he said. “You learn to look people in the eye when you are talking to them. … The Explorer program molds you into a young professional.”
He added that he found when he showed respect, he received respect. Cronkhite plans to continue his career in law enforcement. As he waits to attend the LASD Academy, Cronkhite will continue to work with the station’s Explorer’s program. He said he hoped to follow in Dep. Martin’s footsteps and continue to support the program after he becomes a deputy.
Herrera has yet to decide his future career. He has been nominated for U.S. Naval Academy, and also has an interest in political service as well.
For now, the Explorers at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station are adjusting to some leadership changes in their program.
The LASD Law Enforcement Explorer Program was created in 1969. Anyone, boy or girl, from the age of 14 to 21 who is interested in the program can contact the CV Sheriff’s Station’s Explorer Advisor, Sgt. Brink at (818) 248-3464.