Explorers heat up Arizona desert
It was 81 degrees in Chandler, Ariz., last Saturday, and 18-year-old Eddie Shepard was outside running and jumping over fences.
He and eight other members of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department Explorer post were in the Phoenix suburb last weekend to compete with 200 junior police officers in events designed to test law enforcement skills.
The Tahoe Explorers took first place in three major events; hostage rescue, hostage negotiation, and “hogan’s alley” – a simulated home invasion.
One member of the team, Nathan Coats, 19, finished first in the individual obstacle course, and third in a three-mile run. Shepard finished third in the obstacle course.
“It’s designed like a police chase,” Shepard said. “I had to jump over fences, through a window, and you have to crawl through a tunnel. At the end you dry fire a gun without moving it from a 2-inch circle.”
Completing the course, which also includes lifting a heavy weight in and out of a car in the desert sun was strange for Shepard, but not difficult.
“Tahoe’s altitude helped me a lot,” he said. “The desert is a lot different than Tahoe, but it was prettier than I thought.”
Along with Coats and Shepard, South Lake Tahoe was represented by Travis Lambert, Eric Lewis, Chuck Scott, Denise Bogard, Beth Coleman and Taylor Burdge.
The Explorers are trained in police procedures by members of the police department. They learn everything from first aid and public speaking to the more physical aspects of police work the competition was based on.
“They really learn about all areas of the criminal justice field,” said Officer Rebecca Inman, who directs the program for the police department. “We also concentrate on training them in leadership, building character and building relationships with the community and their peers.”
The Explorer post consists of young men and women between the ages of 14 and 21, and is sanctioned by the Boy Scouts of America. Explorers must maintain a “C” average in school to be eligible for the program.
Two former members of the local Explorers post are working as police officers, one in South Lake Tahoe and one in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“It’s developing the future citizens of our community. They are learning to be leaders and learning integrity,” Inman said.
The Explorers spent five months preparing for the competition, which is one of four they take part in each year. The next one is in Atlanta in July. That competition will emphasize more practical police work, such as traffic stops and writing reports, rather than the tactical event held in Chandler.
Shepard was proud of doing well in the individual events but prefers working as a team.
“The hostage rescue was my favorite,” he said. “We really work closely as a team and I enjoyed it.”
The team had to rescue a school teacher who had been taken hostage.
“They have to work together and go in and grab him,” Inman explained.
“I have a good relationship with the people on our team, we are all really good friends,” Shepard said. “It’s great.”
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