I recently returned from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference. As a former police chief, I enjoy these opportunities to connect with former and current colleagues and to share CBP’s mission and perspectives about law enforcement challenges that all law enforcement agencies share. One of the highlights of this year’s conference was the chance for me to talk about a program that’s really important to me: Law Enforcement Exploring.
Law Enforcement Exploring is a hands-on program open to young people who have completed the 6th grade through 20 years old and who are interested in a career in law enforcement or criminal justice. Exploring provides valuable training, practical experience, competitions, and many other activities. It also promotes personal growth through character development, respect for the law, physical fitness, community involvement, teamwork, and patriotism.
Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan and I got to meet with Explorers during the IACP Explorer Project Luncheon. At each IACP conference, the Explorers “shadow” Chiefs and Sheriffs for a day. This year, five Border Patrol Explorers participated in the Project, along with 20 from southern California police departments. Their experience as Explorers and what they learn about law enforcement and our criminal justice system will serve them in any career field – law enforcement or otherwise.
Local community organizations – typically law enforcement agencies – initiate an Explorer post by matching their employees and resources to the interests of the young people in their local communities. It’s imperative that law enforcement organizations – from the smallest rural hamlet to the largest urban center – commit to building trust and mutual respect between police and communities. Exploring is a great way to do that.
CBP joined Law Enforcement Exploring in 1983. We are the largest sponsor of Explorer Posts in the country, with 72 chartered posts and more than 1,400 registered Explorers nationwide. Many of our senior leaders began their careers as Explorers.
Law enforcement has changed a lot in the past four decades. Those changes have been driven by cultural shifts, new technologies, and a willingness to learn from our missteps and each other’s best practices. What hasn’t changed is our profound commitment to the safety and the security of the public we serve.
There is no greater calling to really make a difference than law enforcement. And the more time I spend with Explorers, the more encouraged I am about our next generation who will answer that call.
Explorers give all of us in law enforcement “bench strength” – because they are tomorrow’s leaders. But even if Explorers choose other career paths, the skills they develop as Explorers will serve them well in any profession – not just in law enforcement.
As outgoing Chairman of the National Law Enforcement Exploring Committee, I encourage all young people to consider Law Enforcement Exploring, and I strongly urge every law enforcement agency to get involved in this important program.