The Shawnee Police Department (SPD) works with young people seeking a career in law enforcement through a program called the Explorers.

THE ISSUE: In an age of widening distrust between U.S. residents and law enforcement agencies, communities are tasked with figuring out how to build stronger relationships within the ranks of both police and citizens.

LOCAL IMPACT: The Shawnee Police Department (SPD) Explorers program offers training and experience for young law enforcement hopefuls, giving them an edge over other applicants once they are old enough to apply for a position.

The Shawnee Police Department (SPD) works with young people seeking a career in law enforcement through a program called the Explorers.

Explorers advisor since January 2016, SPD Cpl. Greg Van Brunt said when he took the reins there were four Explorers in the program.

“Since then, those Explorers have moved on and I now have approximately 15 new Explorers — with three of them female and two in college; the rest are high school students,” he said.

Van Brunt's current interns are from Bethel, Tecumseh and Shawnee.

Why join?

Van Brunt said the purpose of the Explorers is two-fold.

On one hand, the Explorers gain law enforcement experience through training and working with the SPD and other local agencies on special projects like Boo On Bell, the Airshow and the Christmas Parade.

“They provide an extra set of eyes,” he said. “They have radios they communicate with each other and me if they need help.”

The trainees are already making a difference.

He said during Boo on Bell, his Explorers helped re-unite two lost children with their families.

“During an event this summer, my Explorers noticed an electrical short causing smoke on the Kona Snow Cone truck as they were leaving the event,” he said. “They chased the truck and were able to get the driver's attention and save the truck from an electrical fire.”

These students are still learning, they are not considered officers.

“They are by no means enforcers,” Van Brunt said, “merely a presence with the ability to summons help or direct those that need help in the right direction.”

Van Brunt said the second purpose of the Explorers is recruiting.

“My Explorers are out for events where an extra security presence is needed,” he said. “Local law enforcement agencies have the ability to see them in action and/or employ them for their special events.”

That benefit is two-sided.

“My Explorers will be well known to agency heads before they are able to apply,” he said. “Hopefully this will give them an edge over other applicants as well as give agencies a pool to recruit from.”

Van Brunt said one of his Explorers graduated from McLoud last year and has since been employed with the Pottawatomie County jail and is a full-time college student at Rose State in the COPS Program.

Membership

Van Brunt said the Explorers program is sanctioned by and insured through its parent organization, the Boy Scouts of America.

He said to be an Explorer, the intern must have started freshman year in high school.

“Explorers can participate until the end of the year of their 21st birthday,” he said.

Annual fees are $50, which go to insurance and uniforms, he said.

“We buy a t-shirt and a Class A long-sleeve shirt,” Van Brunt said.

Law Enforcement Explorers need extra gear — a police-style duty belt, handcuffs and a flashlight.

“These items are provided by the Explorer,” he said, “however, the post will help acquire these things as much as we can.”

Explorers can be easily spotted; they wear a uniform when they are working that consists of a gold t-shirt, with “Law Enforcement Explorer” on the back and the Exploring badge on the front, and black tactical pants.

“This helps them look organized and helps portray an official image that, I believe, adds to security efforts,” he said.

Van Brunt said the program is open to anyone who lives or goes to school in the area.

For more information, call (405) 878-1645.