Police give students hands-on look at job

March 08, 1997


Staff Writer

For about five years, South Hagerstown High School junior Heather Austin has been thinking about a career in law enforcement - possibly as a Maryland state trooper.

Austin's inclination was reinforced through contact with the state trooper who lives next door and through her sister's fiance, a state trooper who works out of the Rockville, Md., barrack.

But it was taking part in the Hagerstown barrack's new Explorer Post No. 64 for the past six months that convinced her, she said.


"Now that I'm informed on some of the duties they have to do, it's really neat," said Austin, 16, who serves as the group's vice president.

The Explorer Post program, part of the Boy Scouts of America, is designed to give young people ages 14 to 20 years old a chance to explore a career they're considering, said Trooper First Class Jeff Hewett, one of the three post advisers.

"Of course, we're doing it for the kids who are interested in law enforcement," said Hewett.

Along with Sgt. Steve McCarty, Hewett pushed the idea of starting the Explorer Post, only the second in Maryland sponsored by a state police barrack. "It's kind of a pre-career opportunity for them."

Since the group was chartered in October, members have been getting preliminary law enforcement training at the group's twice-monthly meetings, he said.

Trooper First Class Russ Plante and Detective Sergeant Mike Hegedus also volunteer as post advisers.

A night usually focuses on the basics of one educational topic, such as fingerprinting, drug identification, weapon identification or criminal investigation, Hewett said.

Once the students have uniforms and sufficient training, members will be assigned nonhazardous duties, such as directing traffic at a parade or donning a costume to promote safety at a community event, he said.

They'll also get to go on occasional "ride-alongs" with troopers on patrol, Hewett said.

Over the summer, members will get the specialized training they'll need to act as a crime scene search team, he said.

Members' uniforms will be similar to the troopers' uniforms, including previously worn state police shirts and duty belts donated by the police agency, Plante said.

Embroidered patches on their sleeves will identify them as Explorer Post members, he said. And they'll wear different pants and shoes, which they'll purchase themselves.

Members are selling candy bars to raise money to complete their uniforms and to fund field trips to places like the Maryland State Police Academy, the state police crime lab and FBI headquarters, said Hewett, who is hoping for support from civic and fraternal organizations in the community.

Last month, the group went with an aviation Explorer Post to tour the state police in helicopter hangar in Frederick, Plante said.

More joint activities with other Explorer Posts - like the law enforcement post sponsored by the Washington County Sheriff's Department - are planned, he said.

North Hagerstown High School senior Kristy Miller is hoping the program will increase her chances of getting into the Maryland State Police cadet program.

Miller, 17, said she had thought about becoming a nurse but decided she'd rather help people as a police officer.

"I just want to be out there trying to make people do the right thing," said Miller, who would like to specialize in narcotics enforcement.

Detective Sergeant Mike Hegedus has two sons in the program.

Mike Hegedus Jr., 17, a junior at Boonsboro High School, said he has been planning on becoming a state trooper and figured the program would give him an idea of what it would be like.

Brian Hegedus said he's drawn to the thrill of police work, but isn't sure if it will be his final career choice.

Participating in the program has been fun and interesting, said 14, a freshman at Boonsboro High School.

Explorer Post No. 64 meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of the month. For more information, call Hewett, Plante or Hegedus at 739-2101.

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