Thanks to Gig Harbor Police Department Police Explorer Parker Lucey, I spent Monday with his group training on dangerous, armed bad guys being arrested in less-than-friendly circumstances.
I met GHPD Sgt. Darius Aldridge, advisor for the Explorer Program and members of his crew, Gig Harbor High senior Andrew Vaniderstine, GHHS freshman Ivy Stout, GHHS juniors Sara Sharp and Lucey, Tacoma Science and Math Institute senior Kirk Foreman and Peninsula High junior Josh Nichols.
The program is for youth ages 14.5 to 21 years interested in law enforcement. It has a captain, lieutenant, two sergeants and two corporals; others are Explorers.
Lucey joined because he’s interested in law enforcement as a career.
“It teaches police procedures,” he said. “My best friend, Josh Nicholas, joined, told me about it, and I decided to be a part of it. It will give me an advantage if I decide to apply for law enforcement. I’ve learned to interact with public and how to conduct myself at events we provide security for. I will graduate with more confidence and better communications skills and knowledge to defend myself.”
Foreman, a senior at Tacoma Science and Math Institute, has been in GHPD’s Explorer post most of his high school career and holds its highest rank, captain.
“A life goal of mine is to be a police officer,” Foreman said. “I saw the Explorers at community events and figured it would be a way to take a step closer to my dream job. It’s nice to serve the community and gain experience in the process.
“In Explorers I’ve made connections with many Washington law enforcement agencies which will help me get hired; people can put a face to a name. I go on ridealongs with GHPD officers, the best way to feel out this career. You see parts of law enforcement not shown on TV.”
Sharp, a GHHS junior, joined the program last month, and has been to two events so far.
“I joined to learn about law enforcement in an active way,” she said. “I’m interested in becoming a law enforcement officer, and the program provides information and opportunities to practice. I get to do things kids my age wouldn’t normally experience. Though I’ve just joined, I’ve already learned handcuffing, restraining techniques, city limits and jurisdictions. I intend to use this experience to help me go into law enforcement.
Sharp attends West Sound Technical Skills Center in Bremerton, where she takes a public safety occupations class that teaches the basics of firefighting and law enforcement.
“My instructor worked with the Sheriff’s Department as a teenager,” she said. “I wondered if I could do something similar. I researched the GHPD and learned they have a youth program. I’m excited about continuing the program.”
Nicholas is sergeant of the post and an Explorer almost a year.
“I’ve gained so much life experience and learned things I could use in a future law enforcement career,” he said. “After high school I plan to attend a four year university and get a degree in business, then join a police academy and get a job as an officer. I found out about explorers from a family friend who is a Gig Harbor officer. I am grateful for the officers who give their time to teach us about law enforcement and for the program itself. It has really helped me figure out what I want to do with my life.”
To Sgt. Darius Aldridge, the program gives an opportunity for young individuals interested in a career in law enforcement the ability to learn from certified police officers how to perform police duties. Most participants are in or entering high school and have sought out the program to enhance their possibilities of obtaining employment as police officers. Some just want to be part of a great group of young community volunteers.
“I got involved with the post because I believe in its impact on the kids who participate,” Aldridge said. “I’ve seen kids come into the post as shy, unsure teenagers and become self-confident leaders in a very short time. I take my role as their mentor seriously, but always make sure we have fun while learning. The program provides a great service to the community.
“Several participants have gone on to successful law enforcement careers with agencies including Washington State Patrol, Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. military, the Gig Harbor Police Department and countless other agencies. Our explorers attend law enforcement academies after graduating high school and college.”
Members of the post are expected to conduct themselves with integrity, trust and respect at all times both at department-sponsored events and in their private lives. The post is self-supported and generates funds through donations from the public and from events it works throughout the year.
“Members play a pivotal role in the Maritime Gig Festival, Tide Fest, Peninsula Art Festival, Paddlers Cup, Harbor Hounds, YMCA Healthy kids events and National Night Out,” Aldridge said. “They are praised throughout the community for their commitment to service.”
Those interested in joining the post can call Aldridge at 253-851-2421, email him at email@example.com or call the Gig Harbor Police Department Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 253-851-2236. Cost to new recruits is a pair of black BDU pants and a pair of black boots. All other uniforms are provided by the post.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.