Perps with guns, domestic disputes and robberies are just part of the games for Sheriff’s Explorers.
By Mary O’KEEFE
The Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Explorers have added to their ever-growing collection of trophies with strong placement at the Pasadena X Games Explorer Competition.
The competition was held last weekend at Hahamongna Watershed Park on the nearby border of La Cañada and Pasadena.
“We had 20 teams,” said Pomona Police Corporal JT Garcia of the Pomona Police Department and a member of the competition planning committee.
About 300 Explorers competed in scenarios that mimic real life situations that law enforcement face every day. Law enforcement members work for a year to plan the event.
The CV Explorers took home a first-place trophy for the officer ambush traffic stop scenario. In this situation, the Explorers had to take passengers out of a vehicle, sit them on a curb and conduct an investigation. They had to follow proper procedure from the way they approached the vehicle initially to how they interacted with the suspects.
They received a third-place award for crime scene investigation.
“This was something we trained for extensively,” said Explorer Thomas Halaszynski.
The scenario was an investigation of a home invasion robbery at a couple’s home that involved suspects who beat the wife with a flashlight and shot the husband. Team members had to use CSI skills, which included making certain they did not contaminate the crime scene, and properly bagging and tagging the evidence discovered.
“There was also a gun [on scene] that we found,” said Explorer Christian Herrera. The gun was hidden under a stack of books, he added.
The team took home a fourth- place trophy for a domestic dispute scenario.
“A girl found her boyfriend [in a compromising position] with her sister,” Herrera said. “The boyfriend backhanded the girlfriend.”
In this case, the Explorers had to mix psychology with force as they maneuvered the three apart from each other, took their stories and then had to deal with the boyfriend who became belligerent.
These types of scenarios can be found in any law enforcement report and, especially for those CV Explorers, are incidents that are all too familiar as they go on ride-alongs with deputies.
They took home a fifth-place award for suspicious person.
“A call came in about a man’s lewd remarks to little girls,” Herrera said.
The team went to the scene and found the man in question sitting on a bench. After conducting an investigation, they found a switchblade knife, cocaine and marijuana in his possession.
After each scenario, team members talk to a law enforcement competition judge about how they conducted their investigation. They are judged not only on procedure but also, when an arrest was made, it must have been done under the correct penal code.
CV Explorers were operating without their captain Steven Cronkhite. Herrera and Halaszynski said it was different without him.
“When it came to talking to the judge, Steven was always the one who did and would answer the questions,” Herrera said.
This time the team was on their own, which was a good experience Halaszynski said because Cronkhite will be leaving the Explorers soon and moving into a career in law enforcement.
To be part of a competition, and part of an Explorers program, these future members of law enforcement combine academics and physical fitness.
“They have to go through an 18-week academy,” Garcia said. “They get high school credit for being part of the program.”
The teenagers not only keep up with their regular schoolwork but then must also continue to learn at the academy and during the meetings they attend after academy graduation.
To do all of this requires an army of volunteers and mentors from police and sheriff’s stations. This weekend teams came to Hahamongna Park from as far away as Santa Monica and as close as Pasadena. A five-member committee worked on the competition, making certain all the permits and requirements were met, but the scenarios came from the hosting agency, which in this case was Pasadena.
The competitions are popular among the Explorer programs.
“We fill up every year,” Garcia said.
However some of the teams that were scheduled to attend the event had to drop out. Garcia said sometimes finances are just not there.
Each team must pay their own way, which includes entry fees, although the committee works hard to get as many items as possible, including water, donated.
Explorers must be between the ages of 14 and 19, and have a desire to learn about law enforcement. Each Explorer must go through and complete an 18-week academy that occurs on Saturdays. Once they graduate they can choose whatever station they want to attend. They must hold a grade point average of 2.0 or higher and have no arrest record.
The next competition for the CV Sheriff’s Explorers is in Chandler, Ariz. on Jan. 19 and 20. To travel to this competition, the Explorers must raise $5,000, which includes their entrance fee, food and hotel. They get support from grants, volunteers and the CV Sheriff’s Support Group, but they still need donations.
Anyone who would like information on the Explorer Program can contact Dep. Jeff Martin at (818) 248-3464 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.