Program allows youth a glimpse inside police work
What would it be like to be a law enforcement officer?
Students in Hudson have a chance to find out through the Police Explorer program of the Hudson Police Department.
The program is part of the Boy Scouts' Career Exploration. HPD Sgt. Glen Hartman is the coordinator of the Police Explorers and is assisted by HPD Sgt. Eric Atkinson, and officers Geoff Willems and Ed Rankin. They will hold their annual First-Nighter, Monday to explain the program and hopefully find some new recruits. (See additional information in adjacent story on page 11A of the Sept. 24 print edition.)
Hartman said the BSA career program is available in a variety of fields but the law enforcement program is the most popular nationwide. The HPD Police Explorer program began in the mid 1990s and is open to teens through age 20.
"The program is an opportunity for young people interested in law enforcement to find out what a career in the field is actually like," said Hartman.
The program gives participants training and behind the scenes knowledge about the wide variety of tasks police officers do every day. Beginning in the fall, meetings are held twice a month. The first six months of the program involve training in everything from traffic stops to defense and arrest tactics to the operation of squad cars and communications equipment.
Following the initial training period, Police Explorers, who are uniformed, are given experience at the shooting range and have the opportunity to ride-along with officers on their patrols. They also assist the police department with crowd control and other duties at things like parades and community gatherings.
In addition to learning how to use equipment, participants also learn about the rules and ethics of police work. "We talk about the importance of confidentiality and sensitivity about the things we do and see on the job. They know they can't talk about anything they are exposed to through the program at school or to friends. They are held to the same standards as officers on the force."
In addition, all Police Explorers have to maintain a "C" grade level and have parental permission to participate.
Every spring Explorers have the opportunity to participate in the three-day Minnesota Police Explorer competition in a variety of categories related to police work and the program. The Hudson Police Explorer post is the one in western Wisconsin and only competitor allowed from outside of Minnesota.
Hartman said the Hudson Explorers made a good showing at this year's competition. "But the real value is in the experience. All areas of law enforcement are represented and they get to see things like the state patrol helicopter or the Mayo medical service up close and talk with people who do this kind of work every day."
A glimpse of the future
Tony Pasquale of Hudson has been a Police Explorer for four years and will continue until he ages out at 20. He joined when he was a sophomore at Hudson High School after he became interested in police work through the father of a friend, HPD Officer Pete Schultz.
Now attending Mankato State University, Pasquale said his experience in the program has helped him decide on a career. He has a law enforcement major with a minor in alcohol and drug studies.
"The program really helped me get a feel for what it is really like being a cop. It isn't like on TV. There's a lot of paperwork and hard stuff when you are on the job day to day. But you get great access to the officers and you can develop a kind of mentor relationship that is invaluable," said Captain Pasquale, the highest rank that can be achieved in the Hudson Police Explorer post.
Previous Hudson Explorers like Pasquale have gone on to professional careers in law enforcement. Officer Dave Grass is now with the Prescott Police Department and Officer Denton Anderson is a member of the River Falls Police.
Seeing what Police Explorers do with their interest in law enforcement is rewarding to Hartman and the other HPD officers involved in the program. "We really get to know them when they are Explorers and they get to know us. It is great when they move on or even better when they come back looking for opportunity. It is what the program is all about."
For more information about the Police Explorers in Hudson contact Hartman at (715)386-4771. The First-Nighter meeting is open to the public.