What a difference a summer makes. As the last school year was winding down, the Sedona Police Department’s Explorers program had just five members.
However, once school started — and thanks to one new member bringing a handful of friends — that number jumped to 15. It remains at that figure seven months later.
“We have a great group of kids,” said SPD Sgt. Bill Knuth, who oversees the program. “Fifteen is a good amount for a community the size of Sedona, and, it’s about as big as we want it to be, but I’ll never turn a kid away.”
The Explorers program has been around for many years and is open to males and females ages 14 to 21. While it’s not required, many use the program as a stepping stone to enter the military or law enforcement.
“We train them in tactics that mirror actual police work,” Knuth said. “So for those who do choose a career in law enforcement, this is a good head start.”
In Sedona, the group meets every Thursday night as they prepare for upcoming events, which he described as the “dessert” to all their training. But those events are not cheap, and thus the kids raise funds while donations from the public and private sector are always welcomed. Pink Jeeps has partnered with the program and provides transportation to many of the events.
“Our budget is small, and it costs a lot of money to take the kids to these competitions, which is why we’re always looking for donations,” Knuth said.
From Jan. 12 to 14, Sedona joined teams from across the country as they took part in the Chandler Tactical Competition, now in its 20th year.
A welcoming letter from the Chandler Police Department read, “To our returning guests, we are honored that you have enjoyed our competition and decided to return. We have long been developing the competition for this year, as well as brought new ‘twists’ to many events; so we are always growing. To those of you joining us for the first time, we are excited to welcome you to Chandler, and hope to provide an experience you will not soon forget.”
Knuth said the Chandler event focuses on tactical training performed by SWAT team members whereas other competitions focus more on tactics performed by patrol officers.
Despite being inexperienced, Sedona walked away with a trio of trophies, which came in waterborne operations, laser tag and individual male pistol shooting.
“It was awesome — I was so proud of all of them,” Knuth said. “I really didn’t know what to expect. Some of the kids have been with the program for a while, but most of them are still new. But to bring home three trophies is a great accomplishment.”
For more information on the program or to donate, contact Knuth at the Sedona Police Department at 282-3100.