Area students, both male and female, between the ages of 14 and 21 are participating in the Jasper Police Explorers Program in order to further educate themselves through training in a law enforcement atmosphere. The national program originally started in the 1970s as a branch of the Boy Scouts of America. According to the Learning for Life website, more than 33,000 explorers and 8,425 adult volunteers participate in the program nationwide.
Locally, Officer Jordan Beard and Sgt. Jeremy Owens are the advisors who oversee the program and meet with students every Monday night around 6. Currently, there are eight members participating from Walker County and Jasper City schools.
“This gives teenagers something to do. It’s kind of like a career-builder to let kids know if this is something they want to do so they can see what law enforcement really is. It gives them an insight to our day-to-day work,” Beard said. “They see how we interact with the public. They see how we treat the people ... We show them the reason why we do what we do and why we’re here.”
The explorers take part in ride-alongs, report writing, community service, routine traffic stops and other basic law enforcement protocol. On Monday, Oct. 7, Krimson Culverson, captain; Steven Carlton and Chase Alexander, sergeants; and Michael Pierce, Matthew Lockhart, Brittany Larnce, A.J. Currington and Nathan Lawson, explorers, met at the department. The youth in the explorer program go through tests and ranks just like policemen in a department.
“We give teenagers, ages 14 through 21, the privilege to learn about law enforcement on a first-hand experience level. ... We are trained to do everything officers do, aside from carrying a firearm and driving the vehicles, anything from arrest reports, directing traffic, how to do traffic accident reports, how to handcuff someone properly, how to search someone properly, how to search a car properly, where narcotics or anything illegal would be hidden on someone,” Culverson said. “Like I said, anything that an officer would know how to do, we are trained.”
The teenagers agreed unanimously that it’s more than just a program, it’s a “family.” The treatment each one receives from the officers at the department is sensational, explorers said.
“Even though we’re not technically actual police officers, every officer here considers us family. We’re actually in the cars with them. They got our backs, and we got theirs,” Carlton said.
When Larnce was asked if she received different treatment because she was the only female, she quietly replied, “They treat me the same. I mean, it’s different surroundings because I am the only female, but like they said it’s family surroundings and I don’t get treated differently.”
When participants first start attending the meetings, they are given shirts and khaki pants. After six months in the program, the police department provides the teens with uniforms.
Each explorer joined the youth organization for various reasons and career opportunities — game wardens, state police/highway patrol, federal agents, etc. The program, according to Culverson, is a learning experience and it also places more responsibilities on members.
“Another thing that I think is important is that it teaches us to not rely on mom and dad for everything. You have to be responsible enough to be here. We do conduct uniform inspections, you have to be on time. We do have a disciplinary actions board,” Culverson said. “I feel that it’s a way to make you grow up and be more mature.”
Pierce said he also likes the fact that it’s not a pass or fail program. “It’s more of a good thing to go through it this way because it’s not a matter of pass or fail; it’s a learning experience where you don’t have that worry of like going through an academy or worrying about failing or things like that. You get a good solid learning basis.”
“Not only just stuff to do with law enforcement, but it also teaches us good morals and a few other things, too,” Alexander added.
Holding the position as a police officer in any city, whether it be big or small, is an extremely important job. Beard gave his opinion on why he values his career with the JPD.
“The reason I feel my job as a policemen is important is I feel that officers are that symbolic line between good and evil. We’re that line evil has to cross to get to good. If we weren’t here, of course, it would be chaos,” Beard said. “It goes along with your lines of protect and serve. You know you hear the thin blue line, I mean like I said, that’s what we are.”