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What Are Explorer Programs and How Can They Help Aspiring LEOs?

Law Enforcement Exploring is a national program designed to provide information about law enforcement for interested young adults between 14 and 20.

The initiative, also called the Explorers Program, is a way for young people interested in a career in law enforcement to gain hands-on experience as volunteers with police agencies. Participants become familiar with the criminal justice system through training, interaction with law enforcement officials and activities designed to build character and promote personal growth.

They may take part in crowd control or help police at festivals and events, ride with officers on patrol or attend special training sessions and boot camps.

In some cases, Law Enforcement Exploring provides training that qualifies for academic and career education credits, while also improving physical and mental fitness. Many of the activities that participants engage in also encourage personal responsibility through leadership training.

Participants learn about a variety of law enforcement careers, including city, county and state police, federal agencies, U.S. military police, law enforcement intelligence analysts and forensic specialists. The program provides education on procedures and policies, the importance of the rule of law and respect for individuals while applying the law.

Those in the program get to network with officials from across the criminal justice system, including judges, prosecutors, community leaders and law enforcement professionals.

Though the first Explorers Program was formed in Orange County, California, in 1959 and was initially part of the Boy Scouts, Learning for Life Corporation has overseen it nationally since 1998.

Local, county and state law enforcement agencies across the country take part in the program, establishing Posts. These are sponsored and run by specific agencies such as city police departments or county sheriff’s offices.

For example, the program run by the New York Police Department had more than 4,200 members in 2014. In addition to working with the NYPD, the program includes an academy with field trips, classroom instruction and workshops.

The Explorer Program has a national conference held every two years where members can take part in team competitions including response to bomb threats and burglaries, traffic stops, search and arrest procedures and domestic crisis intervention. Individual events include physical competitions, bike policing and pistol marksmanship competitions.

Federal Explorer Programs

In addition to local Posts, some federal agencies, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Drug Enforcement Administration, offer their own Explorer Programs specifically for individuals interested in those agencies.

The DEA Law Enforcement Explorer Leadership Program holds an application and selection process among applicants to attend a one-week intensive program comprised of both classroom and field exercises.

Those taking part in federal Explorer Programs can apply to attend one of four National Law Enforcement Exploring Leadership academies put on by the DEA, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Army Military Police and U.S. Secret Service each summer.

Because of the sensitive nature of law enforcement work, applicants to local or federal programs are required to pass a background check and cannot have any prior arrests or serious traffic violations. Applicants must participate in an oral interview and have at least a 2.0 GPA, as well as be physically fit and of high moral character.

Individuals interested in joining an Explorer Program can contact their local Post or request information about the nearest program through Learning for Life.

Explore Programs