Dare and Currituck County students with an interest in law enforcement have the opportunity to participate in an after school program that is being offered by Kill Devil Hills Police Department this year. KDH Officer Sarah McDowell directs the Law Enforcement Explorer Program, the first of its kind available to local students who have completed the eighth grade and are between the ages of 14 and 21.
McDowell has a genuine passion about Explorers. "This program is not simply a 'club' that the students can join. Besides serving as youth representatives of Kill Devil Hills Police Department, they are actually an important extension of our department, with 'real life' opportunities to work to enhance public safety through tasks such as beach patrol and directing traffic for events like the November Outer Banks Marathon."
This program introduces young people to a variety of related careers and skill sets that are presented as hands-on activities in monthly meetings by various law enforcement professionals. The comprehensive program has elements of community service, physical fitness and citizenship in addition to training, competition, and practical experiences. Through the program, participants - Explorers - develop an awareness of the purpose, mission and objectives of law enforcement professionals and agencies.
Law Enforcement Explorer basic training curriculums can include overviews and activities on such topics as patrol procedures, criminal law, juvenile law, report writing, crisis intervention, ethics, self-defense, traffic/crowd management, accident investigation, basic first aid & CPR, radio communication, crime scene search techniques, community relations, and criminology.
Additionally, McDowell sees the program as an important link between community youth and law enforcement. "I think anything that bridges the huge gap between youth and law enforcement is a positive step. The program has the potential to change some existing misconceptions about what law enforcement is and what law enforcement officers do; it can also change the law enforcement officer's perspective on today's youth. My hope is to establish mutual understanding and respect between the students and officers."
First Flight High School Career Development and Special Populations Coordinator Jennie Rook knows the value of having work experience in a field of interest while in high school. "These experiences can often save time and money, as many students discover once they have made a financial and time investment into preparing for a particular field, that they were not as well suited to it as they originally felt," observes Rook. "Students who take the time to search out opportunities and 'do their homework' with regard to career planning are better equipped to make the challenging decisions they face in the not-too-distant future.
"I am always excited to learn about opportunities which can provide students with actual experience and insight into occupations which they may be considering. We strongly encourage students to make 'informed' career decisions and begin planning early. This program can assist students who may have an interest in law enforcement in doing just that. Being able to work side-by-side and learn from professionals in a field of interest is invaluable."
Rook and McDowell agree that this program is a "win" for the participants, whether or not they pursue a career in law enforcement. "If they decide that law enforcement is not for them, they will have nonetheless networked and gained highly respectable references for their employment applications," notes McDowell. "If they decide that law enforcement is their career path of choice, they will have established a solid network of officers - a big advantage when graduating from the academy. The leadership opportunities are endless."