Between television and movie dramas and real news headlines, there are likely more stereotypes than realistic depictions of what a career in law enforcement looks like.
For those pursuing a degree in criminal justice, it can be difficult to find the ideal career path following college graduation.
There’s a lot of diversity and challenge to the types of opportunities that characterize police work. It’s more than directing traffic, issuing tickets or investigating crime scenes. Special units like SWAT or hostage negotiation are other aspects of police work, and still other officers conduct crime prevention training and community outreach.
For those who enjoy working directly with people in your community, programs such as Law Enforcement Exploring allow officers to make an impact by mentoring Explorers, ages 14 to 20, interested in a career in law enforcement.
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The Benefits of Mentoring
Mentorship programs can be rewarding for youth participants and law enforcement professionals. Mentors who guide Explorers through these programs benefit in terms of enhanced self-esteem that comes from accomplishing something positive for young people along with bolstering strong volunteer networks. Mentors also provide hands-on training in crowd control, riding with officers on patrol or participating in boot camp; it is designed to help youths grow personally and physically while they learn. Mentors gain important insights into young people and their motivations even as they improve their patience and supervisory skills.
Law Enforcement Exploring posts can be found from coast to coast. The New York City Police Department’s program, for example, is one of the largest, with more than 4,600 youths involved. Boston’s, in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America, counts 81 boys and girls as members, 99% of whom are African-American or Latino. On the other coast, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department serves youths through posts at 21 of its patrol stations.
In addition to local posts, some federal agencies also offer Exploring programs. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, for example, offers a one-week program featuring classroom and field exercises. National Law Enforcement Exploring Leadership Academies are also put on each summer by the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Army Military Police and the U.S. Secret Service.
The Law Enforcement Exploring program is not the only program of its type. Many individual police departments – especially in larger cities – have a variety of programs designed to mentor and guide young people. The Los Angeles Police Department, for example, runs the Juvenile Impact Program, LAPD Cadets and the Deputy Auxiliary Police, geared to youths between 9 and 13.