The Salt River Police Department (SRPD) Explorer Post 909 brought home to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community first-, second- and third-place trophies from the First Annual Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Explorer Competition, held in Marana on October 12 and 13. The SRPD Explorers represented not only the Community, but all tribal communities, as the only tribal Explorer post to participate in the competition.
To prepare for the event, the members of the SRPD Explorers put in numerous hours of training, which involved extra days of practice so they would be ready to compete. “We went into this competition as not an extremely known or big agency, but we left with everyone remembering our name,” said Det. Vicente Cendejas of the SRPD.
The Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Explorer Competition is designed to be very demanding on the physical and mental capabilities of each Explorer. Events test the strengths and limitations of the individual’s intelligence, personality, demeanor, professionalism and physical abilities, as well as conviction and dedication to the Explorer program. Explorers from across southern Arizona tested their skills in simulations of real-life situations, including Felony Stops, DUI Stops, Vehicle Searches, Building Searches and a Domestic Violence Call, just to name a few.
he Felony Stop scenario was the first event of the competition. Explorers were judged according to how well they followed established protocols for pulling over and arresting a felony suspect.
SRPD Explorer Gabriel Wood said, “I was the head person in charge; I was on the driver’s side of the patrol car and had to tell the [suspect] driver to get out with caution. In the car we had to talk to dispatch, [explaining that] we were at a traffic stop. After that, we drew our [fake weapons, and] then I yelled to the driver to turn off the engine and drop the keys out the window. He keeps his hands out and slowly comes out of the car; we have him turn away from the sound of my voice, and we ask him to lift his shirt and turn around [so we can] check for [concealed] weapons. He had [a weapon] on him, [so] we told him if he reaches for the gun, we would have to fire our guns. Then we had him walk backward slowly, resting between all three vehicles.”
Fellow SRPD Explorer Jonathan Portillo was the arresting officer in this scenario. He approached the perpetrator, cuffing and searching him, and placed him in the back of the police vehicle. The Explorers then searched the suspect’s vehicle for any other dangerous items. Although they didn’t place in this event, the SRPD team was in the top five for this scenario.
“These scenarios include the same things that police officers do … out on the streets,” said Cendejas. “We teach [the Explorers] the same things the police officers do. They did it just as good as real police officers.”
These Explorer competitions include both daylight and nighttime scenarios. Physical ability and teamwork are tested through obstacle courses, physical agility events and a tug-of-war. Mental abilities are tested through a variety of events, including a medical scenario and a law enforcement entry-level written exam.
The events were judged and scored by various law-enforcement professionals from local, county, state and federal agencies throughout the area. In an effort to ensure fairness, only those professionals (subject-matter experts) trained to perform the duties of the event they are judging are allowed to score the event.
The SRPD Explorer Post 909 made quite an impression on the other teams.
They ranked and received trophies in the following events:
Male Individual Obstacle Course, First Place
DUI Investigation, Second Place
Tug-of-War, Third Place
Female Individual Obstacle Course, Third Place