Teenage ‘Police Officers’ Compete and Learn at State Competition
By Office of Communication
Posted on July 22, 2013, July 22, 2013

Members of the APD Explorer team

Jabari Porter's burst from the police car was so fast the judge holding the stopwatch did a double take. Porter leaped over a couple of railings, zipped over a thin board and darted to the back of an open truck, where he grabbed an air pistol and fired off several rounds.

By the time Porter finished this obstacle course on the second of the three-day 2013 TLEEAA State Competition Saturday at UT Arlington, he'd completed the course in record time. The obstacle course was optional, so no points were awarded to Porter's team, Explorer Post #602 of the Arlington Police Department.

Dozens of Explorer teams representing city and county police departments across Texas come together each year to compete in randomly chosen law enforcement scenarios from fingerprinting and traffic enforcement to making lawful arrests. Usually held in one day and often at high schools, this year's competition was over multiple days and spread throughout the UT Arlington campus.

Participants are members of the Texas Law Enforcement Explorer Advisors Association (TLEEAA), which provides participants insights in law enforcement careers with hands-on training and education. Explorers get to practice their skills in competitions against Explorers from other agencies.

"Being an Explorer is all about training. The competition is about what they've learned," said Arlington Police Officer and Explorer Advisor Jeff Lee, who meet with Post #602 members on Tuesday nights. "There are 13- plus police-related scenarios we train them on from domestics to crime scene investigation, felony traffic stops. arrest search and seizures, that sort of thing. They learn laws and penal codes and procedures. Everything a regular police officer learns, really."

That's exactly what drew Connor Vollmering, who has wanted to be an officer since the age of six.

"It's nice to get your foot in the door to be able to experience the things an officer experiences," said Vollmering, who will be a junior at Martin High School in the fall. "The competition gives you a good idea of what kind of scenarios you will face while on duty and how to handle them. My plan is to become a police officer."

It's not a far-fetched dream. Officer Lee has been involved with the Explorers for so long (since 1996) some of the participants are now veteran officers.

"That's what makes it rewarding for me," said Officer Lee. "One moment they are 16 and going through the program, and the next they are coming to work for us or going somewhere else."

Not all become officers, but there's a fringe benefit to those who go through the program regardless, said Lee.

"We've noticed that those who don't become officers become good citizens," he said. "They become very pro law enforcement. They are community service oriented because our kids sometimes put in over 100 hours a year. It becomes part of how they are, and that's not a bad thing."

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