Learning the Law
Parents, you might have seen the signs: your child always investigating, keeping a lookout for the “bad guys” or having a surprising desire to serve others. It doesn’t take a detective to figure it out—you might have a future Law Enforcement Explorer on your hands.
Children who have a strong interest in law enforcement are able to take their passion from playtime to the real deal with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Explorers Program—a worksite-based program in affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America that gives young adults hands-on law enforcement experience.
“The kids get to come and explore the world of law enforcement,” explains Sheriff’s Deputy Christy Yokley, who has overseen the program the past two years. “They shadow the deputies in a lot of different field tasks that they do. They do a lot of work within the community with things that are kid-oriented.”
Yokley said the Explorers love working with those even younger than themselves. For instance, they often fingerprint youngsters for identification purposes at community events. They’re also an extra set of eyes at events to ensure the younger children stay safe. And in doing that, they often become role models themselves, taking pride in looking out for the smaller children. Other responsibilities could include helping deputies with traffic control at events or parades.
“I think this program has been really good for giving the kids real solid role models and interaction with the deputies when we’re working events,” Yokley said. “It’s also been great in boosting their self-esteem. The deputies care what they have to say. We have some really good guys who enjoy working with the kids and teaching them what they can about the whole environment of law enforcement.”
The group meets once a month and holds regular training sessions. Explorer training could focus on any of the following tasks or skills: dispatch and radio training, defensive tactics, honor guard, firearms, building searches, facility tours and ride-alongs (for Explorers over 18 years old). Yokley said deputies are always careful not to put Explorers in danger, both in the events they cover and in their training sessions. “I’m kind of like the Mother Hen,” she said. “I tell them ‘I’m going to protect you and you’re like my kids now.’ I have high expectations of them.”
Boys and girls age 14-20 who’ve completed the eighth grade are eligible to join the Explorer program with parents’ permission. Participants must be in good physical condition and maintain a C average or higher in school.
Yokley said the program has operated under the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office for at least 10 years and Post. No. 2199 has 12 participants right now. The Edmond Police Department has also recently launched a program of its own.
“I think we’re seeing a resurgence because there is a lot of interest,” she said. “I’m noticing that a lot of other agencies are restarting their programs.”
The program promotes the growth and development of young people, focusing on leadership skills, character education, citizenship and career opportunities. With experience in Law Enforcement Explorer Post No. 2199, participants are able to add valuable skills and experience to a resumé, which will especially benefit those who want to continue on in the field of law enforcement. Yokley believes it will also come in handy when applying to colleges.
Explorers age out of the program at 21 years old. That often marks the beginning of a career in law enforcement (that’s the hope, after all), according to Yokley. Right now, the program has one Explorer who will age out, and that young man has gone to the Sheriff’s Office to work as a detention officer.
“They were Explorers and now that they’ve become old enough to be a detention officer they’ve taken that step. And after they’re old enough to become a deputy, they could take that next step,” said Yokley. “That’s the ultimate goal for them. If not here, then just the knowledge and experience they gain can help them with other agencies as they get older.”
Know someone who might be interested in joining Law Enforcement Explorers? Call 405-869-2531 or email SOWHIMIT@oklahomacounty.org.