Since 1971, hundreds of Phoenix Police Explorers have entered the doors of 620 West Washington as 14 or 15 year olds to train, learn from and volunteer beside law enforcement professionals in the Phoenix Police Department. In most cases, these young men and women attempt to stay in the program throughout their high school years and beyond, as this BSA/Learning for Life program doesn’t ‘age out’ until reaching 21. It is these older and seasoned Explorers who are put in charge of running the program, serving as command staff and mentoring the younger Recruits through their probationary time and the Explorer Academy each summer. With students staying in the program for years at a time, a very real feel of family and group responsibility is present. In 2014, Phoenix Police Explorer Post 2906, currently at 45 strong, provided 5400 volunteer hours to the Department and the City of Phoenix and are on track to meet and exceed that number this year. Recently, several members of the post were certified by the City of Phoenix to provide necessary and badly needed Spanish translation assistance for the Department.
Virtually all members of Explorer Post 2906 are focused on a future in law enforcement or public safety. Many Post ‘graduates’ are now officers within the Department, work in 911/Dispatch or have gone on to serve as EMTs or in all branches of the United States Armed Forces. Because they have already gone through an extensive background vetting and must meet strict policies throughout their time in the program, these young adults present themselves as excellent candidates when they are ready to move on from Explorers.
“Ideally, we would like to see our 21 year olds picked up by Phoenix. With the Police Cadet program in the past it was an easy transition for them to move right into Cadets and then the Academy for training.” said Lead Advisor, Detective Doug Burrow. “Now they are applying for Municipal Guard positions, DO positions at MCSO, with a big crew recently hired as Security Officers at Grand Canyon University. Now that the Department is hiring again, we have our older former Explorers applying and competing for those PPD positions. All of us look forward to seeing badges on these former Explorers, they have already proved themselves to me.”
With the demands of school and family obligations, added to a tight economy, many in the group seek part-time employment on reaching 16. The balancing act they do between studies, work and meeting the requirements of the Explorer program would be a tough act for any adult to follow! However, they consistently prove themselves, turning in high grades (the program requires a minimum 2.0 GPA for participation), serving as command staff, and volunteering actively each month.
With advanced placement (AP) classes now available in most high schools, a large percentage of the Post participates in honors programs and classes that provide them with college credits while they are still in high school. Many of them graduate well on their way to an Associate’s degree and they want to pursue a higher degree upon graduation, but financial reality does not always make that possible.
It is a sad reality that with state universities facing a mandatory 10% cut in operating expenses this next budget year, scholarship money is becoming harder to locate. “I’m applying for everything I can”, noted Executive Assistant Commander Dayanara Sesmas, 2014 Explorer of the Year. She has already been accepted into the Honors Program at Grand Canyon University and is actively seeking merit and financial assistance to make her dream a reality after graduation in May from Franklin Police & Fire High School.
Sadly, the Post recently lost a number of seasoned command staff who had to take on full-time work in order to continue their degree programs. “Explorers gave me direction and had a huge impact on my life”, said former Executive Commander Joshua Davis, who is now working as a Security Officer I at Grand Canyon University. GCU has been the fortunate recipient of the Department’s Explorer program, with four now employed there, able to combine their goal of LE with continuing their higher education. Recently 11 of the Post were tested and certified by the City of Phoenix as Spanish translators, serving on the Post’s 964T translator squad at neighborhood events, the Citizens Police Academy and wherever needed.
The “Future of Law Enforcement” demands smart, capable, dedicated applicants with high integrity and inner drive. These traits are seen at a very early age when the students turn in their grade reports each quarter and semester. Four are maintaining perfect 4.0GPAs, with 13 in the 3.5-3.99 range, and 7 at 3.0-3.49!
Explorers, their parents and Explorer Advisors actively assist these academic stars in seeking merit scholarships and financial aid. Many qualify for tuition waivers from the local community colleges, yet still are faced with high fees for books, labs and other scholastic expenses.
PLEA is planning to step up and annually meet some of the financial needs of these top students and Law Enforcement Explorers. By providing two annual scholarships of $1000 each ($500 each semester), PLEA will help defray some of the growing expenses of seeking a higher degree. These scholarships will be open to Explorers who have graduated from the two-week summer Explorer Academy, have met all Post policy and have proved themselves by their active participation in the program and their GPA. These financial awards will be renewable for up to four years, with maintenance of a 3.0 GPA. It will be open to application for high school seniors as well as to older Explorers who are already enrolled at the college or university level.
PLEA will be actively seeking to build an endowment that will fund these scholarships annually via PLEA Charities. Contributions to PLEA Charities can be made monthly through your PLEA Dues deduction. Call the PLEA Office at 602.246.7869 and a payroll card will be sent to you. All contributions are tax deductible and annual receipts are sent to donors. Checks can also be made directly to PLEA Charities and mailed to 1102 West Adams St., Phoenix, AZ 85007.
Phoenix Police Officers and PLEA members are already familiar with the Explorer program and its members. You’ve seen the Post actively volunteering in all precincts and at annual City of Phoenix events. Some of you have hosted them on ride-alongs. By helping these young adults reach their goals of an education we grow our own excellent candidates to someday join us out on patrol!