Walking toward a bright future
on November 12, 2010
Dozens of young men and women, mostly teenagers, took command of the downtown Richmond Police Activities League building last month while residents sat inside the gymnasium and talked with officers about neighborhood security.
Luckily for those inside, the activity outside was not unannounced, nor was it a plot to take over the building. Rather, the sharply dressed lads were planning security details for the meeting.
Sporting a high-and-tight haircut, spit-shined boots, navy pressed pants and a starched light-blue shirt, Luis Mendoza, 20, of San Pablo, took charge of his troops—the Explorers. The Explorers chief wanted to make sure everything in the gym ran smoothly and without a hitch.
“Tonight we’re on parking lot patrol,” said Mendoza. “We want to make sure the cars stay safe while everyone is inside.”
For more than a decade, the Richmond Police Department has been investing in its future by training up West County youth to perform community service-related police duties. Explorers program coordinator, Cpl. Ray Hernandez says there are currently at least five former Explorers on the Richmond force.
Explorers assist police officers at city events such as festivals, fairs, and high school football games, says Cpl. Hernandez. They also help with neighborhood cleanups, and when a wave of crime happens, they go door-to-door and pass out crime prevention information.
“Our hope is that tomorrow we have youth that are well-rounded in community service and education, and want to become an officer for this city,” said Hernandez.
Mendoza said he’s wanted to become a police officer since he was six years old; family members who were Explorers inspired him. His mother signed him up with the group when he was 13-and-a-half.
“She helped push forward my future with the police department,” said Mendoza. “Now I look forward to working the beats in two or three years.”
Just as the path to becoming a police officer is not easy; some decide not to pursue the Explorers after they learn of its rigorous requirements. Explorers must be in good physical shape and have weekly training sessions with a physical training advisor. Cpl. Hernandez says they follow police academy training guidelines and run and jump the six-foot wall; compete in tug-of-war; do pull-ups, sit-ups, and push-ups.
“If someone is having a problem with physical training, the team gets together to encourage and motivate,” said Cpl. Hernandez. “We do not have youth that do not accomplish physical training. We work as a team and have a teamwork mentality.”
Challenges and hurdles don’t seem to bother Explorer Orlando Guzman. Guzman says the program helped straighten out his life and that his parents are proud of him for switching paths.
“I used to get bad grades in school and was getting to know bad people,” said Guzman. “Now I actually want to have a career. I want to be an Explorer advisor so I can help other people improve their lives.” He hopes to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice as well as join the police department.
As the evening sun reflected off the safeguarded cars, Mendoza and Guzman walked stride for stride in their dapper uniforms, confident that they have new skills to meet whatever hurdles cross their path.
CLICK HERE | Become an Explorer!
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