Group was in hot pursuit of trophy

August 15, 2002|by EDWARD MARSHALL

"We're going to bring a trophy home next time," said Brandon Howard of Hancock's Explorers program to Police Chief Donald Gossage after returning from the 2002 National Law Enforcement Convention at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

After months of preparation, training and fund-raising, five of the eight Explorers in Post 38 set out for the convention a few weeks ago accompanied by Gossage and the group's advisor, Officer Mike Ruppenkamp.

It was the first time the Hancock Explorers attended the national convention.

Explorer Post No. 38, which is sponsored by the Hancock Police Department, has eight members. It was formed in 1997.

"For some of these kids it was the farthest they had ever traveled outside of Hancock," said Gossage.

The convention had an array of activities including leadership seminars, meet and greets with representatives of national law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and DEA, and featured competitions based upon real-life police situations.


The group of five competed against more than 4,000 other Explorers representing posts from around the country and from as far away as London and Australia.

Each competition was observed by a panel of judges who graded each of the teams' performances.

"It took a lot of time and dedication on their part to prepare for the convention," said Ruppenkamp.

The Hancock post competed in simulations based on a domestic crisis, an arrest and search warrant simulation, a hostage negotiation, and a white collar crime involving an armed suspect.

"It was a very good experience, it let us compete in real-life situations," said Brandon Howard, 18, of Hancock.

During one of the competitions Brandon Smith, 15, of Clear Spring, and a teammate were to "arrest" a suspect in a simulated domestic assault case.

The suspect was 6 foot, 2 inches tall, nearly a foot taller than Smith, and weighed more than twice as much as the 130-pound Explorer.

"They found that the handcuffs were too small to fit around his wrists so they ended up having to use two pairs of handcuffs to arrest him, the whole time he was resisting arrest," said Gossage.

"It was more realistic than I thought it would be," said Smith.

All of the Explorers agreed the simulations were helpful in understanding what an actual police officer may have to confront while on patrol.

"The suspects in the competitions were actual law enforcement officers, it definitely made it feel like the real thing," said Corey McCarthy, 17, of Clear Spring.

Gossage founded the Hancock Explorers Post five years ago, using part of a $75,000 federal grant awarded to the police department.

The Explorers program had posts across the country.

The program is under the Boy Scouts of America's Learning for Life Program. The Hancock post is open to males and females 14 to 20 years old.

The program is designed to give young people an opportunity to learn about law enforcement and to receive hands-on training in law enforcement procedures.

Explorers learn from police officers about all aspects of law enforcement ranging from routine traffic stops to bomb threats to hostage negotiations.

"It lets interested youth get together and form a unit. It's an opportunity for the youth of this community to get a look at law enforcement and stay out of trouble," Gossage said.

"You're not planning to, but you grow closer to the people in the post after a while, especially the ones really interested in going into law enforcement. I've become close friends with a couple of guys in the post," said McCarthy.

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