The Cedar Rapids Police Explorer Post team brought back a Top-Five placement in crime prevention at a national competition, its highest placement since the 1980s.
The team is part of the national Explorer Program, which gives young adults the opportunity to explore a career in law enforcement by working with local law enforcement agencies, and the National Explorer Conference is held every other year, giving Explorer teams a chance to compete against other teams from around the country in handling various police procedures.
At this year’s conference, held at Purdue University in Indiana from July 16-21, about 1,800 Explorers participated. The Cedar Rapids police department sent five Explorers: Tristan Connell, Caitlyn Froese, Logan Graham, Jacob Lepsch and Aaron Stark. The advisers who attended the competition with the Explorers were Cedar Rapids officers Shawn Burke, Charity Hansel and Dan Kent.
The Cedar Rapids team, known as Explorers Post #107, competed in responding to bomb threat incidents, crime prevention, driving, crisis negotiation, bicycle courses, shoot/don’t shoot, air pistol, police written examination, physical fitness, traffic stops and white-collar crimes. The team placed fifth in the nation for their work on crime prevention, and only the top five placements get recognized.
Competitions are designed so that Explorers have no time to prepare in advance for any given challenge, Hansel said. In the crime prevention test, the Cedar Rapids Explorers were tasked to give a 3-minute presentation on the spot about how to make a house safer because of nearby burglary activities. The Explorers relied on what they learned from their Cedar Rapids officer advisers, including trimming back bushes near windows, adding motion-detector lighting and organizing neighborhood watch programs.
Hansel said she was excited and proud to see how the Cedar Rapids team responded to the competitive atmosphere.
“We don’t know what they’ll get, and we can’t prep them,” she said. “The whole thing is an element of surprise and thinking on your feet, like what a police officer does every day.”
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The Cedar Rapids Police Department Explorer Post, which was organized in February 1966, currently has 17 Explorers. Explorers are from various backgrounds between the ages of 16-20 years old and have a common interest in developing responsibility and leadership qualities. Explorers meet twice monthly and topics include arrest and search procedures, accident investigation, bomb threat response, burglary in progress protocols, crime scene search, hostage and crisis negotiation, domestic abuse investigation, shooting scenarios, first aid, traffic stop procedures, white collar crime investigation, firearms practice and vehicle maneuvering procedures.