Teens sought for law enforcement Explorer post
By Pat Kumpan
Despite being from different generations, a Poway Sheriff’s lieutenant and a patrol deputy have at least one thing in common — both were Explorers with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department when they were teens.
Lt. Scott Miller joined during his Ramona High School days prior to his 1978 graduation, while Deputy Chris Lawrence got his start before his graduation from Poway High School in 2001.
Miller rolls his eyes when he hears Lawrence’s time frame — a time lapse of about 23 years after Miller signed up to be an Explorer.
But each is thankful for the opportunity, because the adventure led them straight to their current careers.
Being an Explorer came with huge commitments — completing a week-long class, much like boot camp, then 20-hour weeks of volunteering, getting an inside glimpse into law enforcement, while balancing other daily tasks, they said.
Such an experience would teach just about anyone if he or she wanted to make being a deputy a career goal, Miller said.
Right now, the duo is hoping to recruit more teens — male and female — into the program because the number of Explorers has dwindled to only one at the Poway station — an all-time low.
“It’s a program that ebbs and flows,” Miller said. “There is a total of 60 Explorers throughout the county.”
Considered by many as an extension of Scouting, Explorers are not limited to being sponsored by law enforcement or firefighting agencies, but trades such as culinary and other life skills also have programs.
Miller and Lawrence, of course, chose the sheriff’s program because of their interest in becoming deputies.
Lawrence said teens who sign up will find the program to be an eye opener, a slice of reality far different than what’s depicted on “cop shows.”
“Deputies have to learn to be family counselors, diffuse volatile situations, write tickets and other tasks, and, yes, there is danger at times, but they also get an occasional pat on the back for a job well done, he said.
“It’s not the job for everyone,” Miller added. “It’s not great pay, but it’s a job you can be proud of — if you do it right.”
Every applicant for the Explorer program gets screened. Parents, teachers and others need to write a recommendation and a background check is conducted for those who apply.
A uniform, much like a deputy’s, costs roughly $200, or a little more, and the star insignia on the patch looks identical to that worn by deputies on their shirts.
For those who qualify, being in the program continues to age 20 1/2 and typically by then an Explorer knows if it’s time to move forward to the Police Academy, or change career paths.
For more details about the Poway Sheriff’s Explorer program, call Miller at 858-513-2800.
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