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Exploring Law Enforcement

Police biking required agility and coordination
Exploring Law Enforcement
2016 National Law Enforcement Exploring Conference hosts 1,800 in Arizona
By Paul Koscak, photos by John H. Lander Jr.

Imagine spending a week being tested in first aid and crisis negotiation, responding to threats and burglaries, investigating accidents, shooting pistols and attending academic seminars led by some top federal, state and local law enforcers.

It was all part of the 2016 National Law Enforcement Exploring Conference that took place at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, from July 11-15. The biennial event filled with contests, demonstrations, exhibits, classroom learning and competitions—as well as fun drew more than 1,800 Explorers from Honolulu to Puerto Rico.

More than 200 U.S. Customs and Border Protection Explorers took part. The agency hosts the country’s largest Law enforcement Explorer group, sponsoring some 70 posts and more than 1,300 Explorers. Posts are located at ports of entry, at Border Patrol sectors and stations and within Air and Marine Operations. In July, the National Targeting Center established a National Capital Region post.

Classroom instruction gave participants an opportunity to gain law enforcement knowledge and discuss current police and legal issues. Topics included combating terrorism, gang recognition, psychological profiling, hate crimes, surveillance technology, use of force and protecting the border.

A featured seminar on community policing was led by Sean Duggan, Chandler, Arizona, police chief and officials from the Department of Justice and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. CBP also ran three seminars covering vehicle searches, use of force and border security.

Some instruction even took place in the field.

CBP Explorers from Cincinnati’s Post 2545 visited facilities at San Ysidro, Long Beach Seaport, Los Angeles Airport, the San Diego Air and Marine Unit at North Island and a Border Patrol check point in Yuma, Arizona to learn more about the agency’s mission.

Explorers got a chance to display their marksmanship.
Explorers got a chance to display their marksmanship.

Competitions, that even included taking a sample police written exam, required both physical fitness and intellect and left lasting impressions.

"With the written exam, I learned that I should probably start studying more because that test was not as easy as I expected," said Zamira Rivera, a 16-year-old Explorer from Chicago. "With the physical fitness test, I had to push myself and give 110 percent. The next day I was sore, but it was worth it. I won second place in the 14 to 16 age division."

"The conference was a blast for me and I’m going to do it again," said Explorer Khush Misty, also from Chicago. "I advise every Explorer to experience its greatness."

For young people ages 14-21, Exploring can be a stepping stone to a law enforcement career. Independently affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, the program offers training in the skills required for criminal justice and police work with an emphasis on building character, leadership, good citizenship and physical fitness.

The program is a vital recruiting tool for CBP and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies sponsoring posts.

Staying sharp and marching in formation was a common sight at the conference.
Explorers stay sharp and march in formation


CBP headlined this year’s conference when Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, who currently chairs the National Law Enforcement Exploring Committee, welcomed the Explorers. He told them several CBP senior leaders started as Explorers and worked their way to become port directors and chiefs. "I can tell you this career path offers the opportunity to really make a difference in the world around you. What you learn as an Explorer will benefit you in any role or career," he said.

Jose Venegas is a prime example. Venegas first learned about law enforcement as an Explorer in 1995. He’s now a supervisory CBP officer at the Chicago Field Office and currently advises two Explorer posts. An instructor at this year’s conference, Venegas has been an adviser for 19 years.

"It turns dreams into reality," said Venegas. He’s seen how the program has transformed lives, particularly for Chicago’s inner-city youth. For many, it’s the first time that structure and discipline become a lifestyle, he said. Venegas, who also grew up in inner-city Chicago, credits the program for the guidance that turned his enforcement career goal into a reality. "I knew what I wanted, but not how to do it."

At the 2016 conference, structure and discipline were qualities easy to spot. Explorers were prominent throughout the campus—sharply groomed, well-mannered and respectful, they paced in small groups from one event to another. Many marched in smart formations in flawless uniforms that matched their sponsoring agency. Taking pride in the expectations and requirements of the program sets them apart from their peers, said Venegas. "They stand out," he added.

Three Explorers particularly stood out and were recognized—sadly, one posthumously—for their courage.

David Kim, 20, from Scottsdale, Arizona, saved a motorcyclist bleeding severely from a partially severed foot by fashioning a tourniquet from an apron on Jan. 25. A firefighter responding to the accident said, "If not for the tourniquet, the motorcyclist would have bled out."

Jacob Ursin, 16, from Vero Beach, Florida, swam in frigid 57-degree water and rescued a 2-year-old child from a car that plunged into a pond Jan. 23. Arriving sheriff’s deputies pulled two adults from the vehicle, but the driver died the following day.

For their feats, Ursin and Kim earned the Law Enforcement Exploring Lifesaving Award.

Michael Lawson, 17, was swimming with friends in a fast-moving river in Wilmington, New York, swollen by a recent rainfall June 26, 2014. When he noticed one of his companions struggling against the swift current, Lawson quickly dove into the raging river to save his friend. Tragically, both lost their lives in the overpowering water.

Lawson, an Explorer from the post sponsored by the Plattsburgh, New York Air and Marine Operations branch and the Champlain Office of Field Operations, was posthumously awarded the Law Enforcement Exploring Bravery Award.

Explorers had time to break from the demanding program to meet others and simply have fun. A water balloon fight, a social and a rock concert added some levity to their stay. Anye Whyte, a member of the National Law Enforcement Exploring Committee, said the conference is a great way to network and make connections for future employment. Many Explorers collected business cards, he added.

"This conference is by far one of the greatest experiences a law enforcement Explorer can undergo," said Whyte. "It is one that will never be forgotten. Although hundreds of agencies were represented, the pride shown by the CBP Explorer family is one we feel no other can come close to."


CBP excelled in several conference scenarios and competitions. Here are the results:




Bike Policing Competition

Adonys Campillo - 1st Place
(Male 14 – 16)
Miami Field Office-Post 99


Marc Alvarado - 3rd place
(Male 14 – 16)
San Juan Field Office-Post 818


NLEEC Pistol Championship

Kenneth D. Santiago Vega
2nd place - Pistol
San Juan Field Office-Post 818


Physical Fitness Test

Emily Hatting - 2nd place
(Female 17 and above)
Chicago Field Office-Post 2545


Zamira Rivera - 2nd Place
(Female 14 to 16)
Chicago Field Office-Post 9706




Burglary in Progress
CBP OFO Orlando - 2nd place
Tampa Field Office-Post 1808

1. David Guzman

2. Christopher Sheocharan

3. Nathaly Castro

4. Ricardo Ruiz


Bomb Threat Response
CBP Border Patrol El Paso - 1st place
El Paso Sector-Post 2910

1. Brandon Flores

2. Sophia Rios

3. David Hernandez

4. Frank Pino


Domestic Crisis
CBP Border Patrol El Paso - 5th place
El Paso Sector-Post 2910

1. Brandon Flores

2. Sophia Rios

3. David Hernandez

4. Frank Pino


Traffic Accident Investigation
CBP Border Patrol El Paso - 3rd place
El Paso Sector-Post 2910

1. James Rocha

2. Alfonso Ramirez

3. Saul Barraza

4. Jason Acosta