STANISLAUS COUNTY — Young aspiring cops can get a feel for the job through Explorer programs, but for the first time in Stanislaus County, a group of about 30 Explorers had the opportunity to learn what it takes to secure a position in law enforcement.
Explorers from the Modesto Police Department and the Stanislaus County Sheriffs Department participated in a weekend-long mock police academy at the sheriffs training center off Crows Landing Road to get a taste of everything a real recruit would do in six months.
Its very condensed; this is just the bare-bones basics to prepare them for how disciplined, how physical the academy is, said sheriffs Sgt. Scott Houston.
During 10-hour days, the Explorers learned everything from proper radio communication and traffic control to ethics and search-and-seizure tactics. In between, there was a lot of physical training.
A militaristic introduction called Day 1, Hour 1, standard in all police academies, pushes recruits to their physical and mental limits and weeds out those not equipped for the job. Modesto police Officer Chris Adams, an Explorer adviser, said more recruits drop out during that time its more like four hours than the remainder of the six months combined. Its not that things get easier, but those who endure and learn from those first hours understand whats expected of them and how to succeed.
During the mock academy, the Explorers stood at attention while their uniforms were scrutinized by Deputy Ian Dinberg. Smudged name tags and crooked tie bars were grounds for pushups or leg lifts, not just by the offender but the entire class.
During drills and marches, three instructors wove between the rows of Explorers as they marched, turned and saluted. They found themselves holding pushup position on the hot concrete or inches from a loud drill instructors face when they failed to meet standards.
I think the first day was probably the most realistic, when you have drill instructors yelling in your face for every little thing, and the mentality to not give up is a big part, said 19-year-old Police Department Explorer Jacob Hook. I think thats what is going to give us the advantage over people that arent Explorers, is being able to better prepare ourselves going into the academy, knowing what to expect.
The last training of the academy before graduation was a forced option simulator. Explorers had to make split-second decisions on whether to use lethal force in a variety of calls, from vandalism to an officer down.
The instructors could change the outcome of the scenarios based on the Explorers actions their voice commands, their radio traffic, whether they called for backup and which tool on their belt they went for first, their firearm or a less lethal weapon.
It was the best part of the weekend for most, but others most enjoyed the physical training because of the camaraderie it elicited.
A lot of people were falling back on the (running) track or they just felt like they couldnt push through, but when you get everyone together to make each other succeed, thats one of the best things, I think, said Police Department Explorer Austin Shovelski, 20. At the very beginning, it was mentally draining, physically draining, but a lot of it is in the mind and a lot of it is you have to support each other and you have to be mentally strong and let yourself know that you can do it no matter what someone tells you ... if you put all your effort into it.
Modesto police Sgt. Aaron Tait, who worked with Houston to organize the academy, said theyd like to partner every year to offer the experience to cadets. There is a weeklong academy in Southern California that some cadets have the opportunity to attend, but money and time prohibits most.
Eventually, the Sheriffs Department and the Police Department want to expand the academy and invite Explorer posts from out of the area.
Police Explorer Conner Jones, 20, said working with another agency was an important experience because in reality they depend on each other for mutual aid.
It definitely was a bonding experience because if, say, MPD Explorers were to get hired on at MPD and SO Explorers were to get hired on at SO, we already have a bond from this experience and we trust each other a little bit more, he said.
Tait said not only is the experience good for the Explorers who someday plan to attend a real police academy, but it also can be an opportunity for agencies to recruit the most promising in the group and put them through one.