They can perform traffic stops, know how to deal with situations such as those involving burglars and quick decisions, they can cite rules and laws, and many of them are still only in high school.
The Owatonna Explorer program is a great way for young people to learn about law enforcement and the state’s laws. Although it is not only for those who wish to pursue a career in law enforcement, many of those who take part in the program have promising futures in law enforcement ahead of them.
Explorer Advisors Melissa Michael and Derrik Quinlan, who are officers with Owatonna Police, explained the positive impact the program has on those who participate. “They basically go through any and every situation that could occur in real life as a law enforcement officer,” Officer Quinlan said. “The Explorer Program is a big pathway to a career in law enforcement.”
The program is open to young people ages 14 to 20 and seeks to familiarize participants with scenarios and learning activities that will provide them with invaluable experience which will help them in a career in law enforcement, or in any career.
It is a national effort aimed at educating young people on law enforcement. A state competition is held each year in April, while a national one is held after that. The Owatonna group meets regularly from September until the spring time, when they ready themselves for the competition season.
At this year’s competition, the Owatonna Explorers received high marks and earned fourth place in domestic crisis. “We have to give a lot of props to our Explorers, because it is a lot of work,” Officer Michael said. “They do it well.”
The competition was held in Rochester and featured a myriad of different tests and situational competitions. Liam Miller, a three-year veteran in the program, explained that when it comes to each situation, “it’s not just the what, it’s the why. We need to be able to tell citizens why we’re doing things, and know it rationally.”
Miller credits the program with not only helping him on his future pathway to a career in law enforcement, but also in building his own character. Once less confident, he now participates on the speech team and helps out at community events such as safety camp. “We really enjoy doing that,” Miller said about working within the community.
Although not all enrolled in the program are seeking a career in law enforcement, Miller seems to have found his calling. “It just so happens that I ended up finding my niche,” he said. In the fall he will be attending Minnesota State University – Moorhead to continue his law enforcement education.
“I can’t say enough about the 12 Explorers that we have,” Officer Quinlan said of their group. “They’re all great young adults, they’re all going places. This is just the starting step if you have an interest in law enforcement and an inkling in what you want to do.”
Miller credited his advisors with their team’s continued success. “These guys definitely do a great job at advising us,” he said while also praising the program. “It’s a good place to start and get a good foundation.”
“I think what Explorers are for those who are interested in it,” Miller explained. “It’s not just if your certain about a career in this, it’s just if you’re interested, and if you are and you stick with it you might have your career, and if you change your mind that’s good too.”
Both Officer Quinlan and Officer Michael hope to continue to grow the program and help young people build upon their career foundation. They credit local organizations with aiding this goal, including the Owatonna Eagles which recently donated $1,200.
Those who wish to learn more about the program can contact the officers. They can also visit the Owatonna Police Department for fliers and additional information on the program.