Explorer Post 909 gives youth experience in law enforcement careers
By Shelley Widhalm
Explorers at the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) can get a taste of a career in law enforcement while learning other job-readiness skills.
LCSO Explorer Post 909, established in the early 1990s, gives youth ages 15 ½ to 20 weekly career lessons while also emphasizing skills in leadership, networking, communication and team building.
“I tell parents this: ‘My goal is not to make them police officers,’” said Sgt. Marc Weber of the LCSO and lead advisor of Explorer Post 909. “Ultimately, my goal is to make them better people. They learn so much more above and beyond law enforcement. They learn life skills, character skills, accountability and integrity.”
Explorer Post 909 is chartered with Learning for Life and the Law Enforcement Explorer Post Advisors Association of Colorado, or LEEPAAC. Learning for Life, an affiliate of Boy Scouts of America, is a school and work-site-based youth character education and career exploration program with 264 offices nationwide.
Currently there are 16 youth in the program, but up to 20 can participate. One of the members is from Berthoud and graduated from Berthoud High School in 2018.
The program recruits, interviews and trains new explorers each fall and issues them a Class A uniform with a felt campaign hat, a Class B uniform, and a training polo. The explorers meet for three hours every Monday at the sheriff’s office in Fort Collins, going over various training topics; such as ethics, basic self-defense, active listening and verbal de-escalation.
“It’s a mini-academy on the culture of the sheriff’s office,” said Weber, chairman of LEEPAAC. “It’s very much in a college-class format.”
The material is presented lecture-style with hands-on learning to demonstrate the lessons, plus there are tests on the material. The academy launches in late September or early October and is completed by March or April.
Graduates of the academy are issued a certificate and receive a badge and nameplate for their uniform.
“The training doesn’t necessarily stop after graduation,” Weber said. “The Monday meetings continue, and we expand on the topics.”
Academy graduates can sign up for ride-a-longs and work at community events. They help with things like crowd control at parades and the county fair, notifying officers of any potential issues, and they provide assistance with wrapping and toy deliveries for the Santa Cops of Larimer County program. They donate approximately 4,000 hours a year at the events.
“A lot of it is crowd presence,” Weber said, adding the explorers do not have any enforcement authority. “They are the eyes and ears for us; that’s ultimately what they are. They are part of community outreach, just another presence for us.”
The explorers can earn ranks that follow the structure of the sheriff’s office, beginning as explorer scouts and ranking as high as lieutenants. They also are invited to attend the annual Regional Explorer Conference — in 2018 it was in early July at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, and this year will be in Gunnison, again in July.
“These kids are good solid kids,” Weber said. “They’re passionate about the job. They’re engaged. We have a ton of cops in our agency who are former explorers.”
The cost to join the program is $30 annually, which covers the Learning for Life charter and membership in LEEPAAC. Explorers need to have no serious arrests or convictions, maintain a C average in their schoolwork, and pass an oral interview, an integrity interview, and a written exercise. They also need to pass a background investigation.
To learn more about the program, visit https://www.larimer.org/sheriff/volunteers/explorer-post-909 or go to the post’s Facebook page, LCSO Explorer Post 909.
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