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All that could be heard in the dark buildings at City Hall on Monday night was the shuffling of feet and whispers of the Explorers. With plastic guns drawn and flashlights in hand, they were making sure nobody was inside the building.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers
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All that could be heard in the dark buildings at City Hall on Monday night was the shuffling of feet and whispers of the Explorers.

With plastic guns drawn and flashlights in hand, they were making sure nobody was inside the building.

When Sedona Police Officer Rena Darden and Officer Matt Tanner were found, they were apprehended.

No, Darden and Tanner didn’t give up their badges for a life of crime — actually quite the opposite.

On Monday, Nov. 27, Darden, Tanner and Detective Lucas Wilcoxson were teaching a group of high school students proper technique and procedure for clearing a building at the bi-weekly Explorers meeting.

“You’ve got to get in there quick,” Wilcoxson said. “There’s no slow time.”

This skill, along with numerous others, will help the Explorers in the ninth annual Law Enforcement Tactical Competition in Chandler Friday to Saturday, Jan. 12 to 14.

This competition focuses on tactical procedures from a patrol perspective.

Explorers is a program organized by SPD with the help of Darden and Wilcoxson that teaches kids basic law enforement practices.

“It gives [them] the skills to work with a team,” Darden said.

This team work will be tested by 11 team events at the competition including: hostage rescue, high-risk warrant service, marijuana field raid, Hogan’s Alley, hostage negotiations, tubular assault, tug-a-war, tactical relay race, downed officer rescue, rapid response and terrorist threat.

There will be three individual events as well — a firearms simulator, paint ball tournament and 3-mile run.

Currently, there are eight active Explorers on the squad, all of which are Sedona Red Rock High School students.

Four of the eight previously competed.

“It works well because we all pair up,” Explorer Michelle Henry, 16, said.

The Explorers form teams of two, allowing those with experience to help the “newbies” out, according to Henry.

When they aren’t competing, the Explorers aid in community policing, including parking and crowd control.

To join the Explorer team, a person must be between the ages of 14 and 21 and have completed the eighth grade.

A clean criminal record with no serious arrests or convictions, good moral character, a C grade average and a willingness to work with the community round out the prerequisites.

Darden said that along with teamwork, the program teaches leadership skills. Explorers learn how to serve as active members of the community. The program also gives the youths a head start on a career in law enforcement.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to be a cop,” Explorer Sergeant Bianca Carrillo, 15, said.

Carrillo joined the Explorers when she was 13 years old.

Three of the six at the meeting said they were interested in becoming police officers in the future. The others simply wanted the experience.

“It’s something to do on a Monday night,” Explorer Trevor Preschler, 14, said.

Preschler is a recent addition to the team.

Carrillo said it also keeps them out of trouble.

“When you’re involved with the law enforcement, you are less likely to go out and drink or do drugs,” Carrillo said.

While Explorers would face program consequences for these activities, Wilcoxson said it’s not a “snitch program.”

Darden said they do not ask the kids to give them information about other students or parties.

The program is not city funded and relies on donations and fund-raisers for support.

This year, the group was unable to raise much money, so the Explorers must pay the $100 entry fee for the competition on their own.

The Explorers only have five more meetings before they head south to compete.

For more information about the program or to join contact Wilcoxson at 282-3100.


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