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Arlington Explorers win Post of the Year Award
ARLINGTON Theyve been up and running for less than a year, but the Arlington Police Explorers have already been judged to be the best.
The Mount Baker Chapter of the Boy Scouts of America awarded the Arlington Police Explorers with the title of Best Explorer Post of 2006 this spring, barely nine months after the posts first meeting last summer.
Arlington Police Officer Eric Moon acts as the departments supervisor for the explorers. He said that the young volunteers have earned the respect of both the police officers they work with and the community they serve.
At first, some of the officers were a bit apprehensive about having the explorers in their cars, but by now theyve ridden with just about everyone, Moon said. It was just an adjustment to the unfamiliar. As the public has started to recognize them, theyve been asked to more and more events.
The lineup has changed somewhat since its inception, but its hovered around half a dozen high school students from Arlington and Stanwood. This means the Arlington Police Explorers are still looking for more members, Moon said.
Arlington High School Class of 2007 graduate Marina Ryzhova, AHS incoming senior Eric Gray and Stanwood High School incoming junior Wade Smith are all founding members of the group, while incoming senior Dan Smith joined in the fall of last year and Brittany Ellis joined in May.
Ryzhova, commander of the Arlington Police Explorers, originally signed on to find out whether a future career in law enforcement was for her. Shes headed to the University of Washington in the fall, but expects that shell major in psychology rather than criminal justice. She is still interested in a law enforcement career, but she wants to keep her options open.
While Ryzhova has enjoyed providing additional security for parades and street festivals, Gray gets a bigger kick out of building searches.
Id always wanted to work in law, and see what it was all about, Gray said. As Ive gone on patrols, Ive gotten a broader picture of how everything works. Its easier to deal with people now.
Wade Smith likewise touted the understanding hes gained of what it means to be a police officer, as well as the teamwork hes learned and the friendships hes developed. When he was a relatively new recruit, he joked that he liked the sirens. He didnt expect real-life police work to involve so much paperwork, echoing the sentiments of his peers.
I knew there would be paperwork involved, since Ive done job shadows in sheriffs offices, but theres a difference between hearing about it and seeing it, Ryzhova said last year.
Dan Smiths enthusiasm for the experience of working with police gave him the energy he needed to memorize their radio codes. Ellis is one of several explorers who cited family members as inspirations to take part in law enforcement.
My dad, Paul Ellis, is a reserve police officer, said Brittany Ellis, whose uncle and cousin are also police officers. I like the idea of helping somebody, and I like the adrenaline rush that comes with it. Im still getting used to all the calls, but I want to know every detail.
After the explorers receive their police procedural binders and uniform fittings, Moon walks them through a series of hands-on lessons. Last year, these included witnessing a search warrant being conducted on an actual suspects vehicle. Moon explained that the search warrant was an unscheduled training opportunity, but emphasized that it was conducted in a controlled environment, while Wade Smith elaborated on how thorough the process was.
They had to write down everything that they found and took out, Wade Smith said.
Back when she was as new a recruit as Ellis, Ryzhova had compared this initially steep learning curve to the first day of school. Of course, the first day of school rarely includes an interview process as intimidating as the interrogation-style grilling that the explorers received from two police officers.
For his part, Moon commended the explorers on their attentiveness, praising them for being really good listeners and eager to learn, even during the less action-oriented lessons on paperwork. While the explorers 38-page binders are rather condensed, compared to the officers more-than-400-page departmental manual, the explorers must still learn radio codes, uniform standards, how to conduct themselves while on duty, and the proper procedures for searching buildings.
Theres always openings, Moon said. Weve lost some members, but gained some more. The whole idea of this group is that kids learn whether they like it or dont. Whatever they decide, it opens doors.