For years, the Marana Police Explorers program has made a powerful impact on the young men and women who participate in it, and last month, their hard work paid off. At the annual Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Explorers Competition, the Marana team placed first overall, while collecting more than ten medals in the individual events. This year’s competition featured 18 teams and 220 participants. “It was a huge moment for these Explorers, and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” says Officer Kevin Litten, who leads the program.
This year marked only the third time Marana’s Explorers have entered this competition. Last year, they walked away in second place, and though proud of their accomplishment, they knew they could do better. This year, their efforts earned them a blue ribbon, and more importantly, reinforced the lesson that persistence and resilience have their rewards.
For months, the Explorers prepared for the competition by practicing the skills that would be tested across a wide range of scenarios. In one situation, the Explorers had to figure out how to negotiate in a hostage situation (first place), while in another they executed a high risk traffic stop (second place). They even had to demonstrate competency in some of the more mundane police responsibilities, like report writing and courtroom testimony (second place). “We’ve practiced all these activities countless times, so it was incredibly satisfying to see that these abilities had really sunk in,” Litten recalls. “This competition takes everything we’ve taught in our program, from teamwork to leadership skills, and forces them to work together to resolve a scenario.”
The Marana Explorers program serves as a powerful tool to expose young participants to the rigors of police life. As a result, many have chosen to pursue careers in law enforcement, and for those who don’t, they walk away with a deeper understanding of what it means to be a cop. The Explorers participate in two competitions every year; in April, they will set off for Los Angeles, where they will enter the LA County Sheriff Explorer Competition.
In addition to these two events, the Explorers also get the chance to apply their skills in the field. One night a year, they ride as passengers with a contingent of Marana police officers, and handle all communications as they respond to a series of scenarios. In managing these situations, they must coordinate every aspect of this work, from communicating with fellow Explorers to responding to civilians at the scene. “It’s a stressful experience for them,” explains Litten, “but at the end of the night, they’ve learned more than we ever could have taught them in a classroom.”
Currently, Marana’s program has 14 active participants, ranging in age from 14 to 20. The program is always accepting new recruits, and hosts a parent orientation twice a year. The next orientation is currently scheduled for this January.