Explorer Program is a Big Asset to Yakima Police

Explorer Program is a Big Asset to Yakima Police
YAKIMA - YPD is constantly looking for ways to save money, especially now that they are forced to trim one million dollars from their budget. Action News found out one tool they're relying on is their Explorer program. The group volunteers their time to the department, but member Joel Panattoni said they get something out of it too.

"When you're going to a hot call or something exciting, and you turn on the lights and sirens, and then start going fast, it's great," he said. "There's nothing like it."

Panattoni has been an Explorer for two years. He said he feels lucky to be a part of local law enforcement. But YPD Officer Ira Cavin said they are the lucky ones to get the free help.

"They fill a vital role in the Police Department," he said.

And that vital role includes relieving the official officers from duties that keep them from the streets.

"The Explorers can't replace a commissioned officer," he said. "They have no arrest authority and can't patrol. They can, however, help with our community service responsibilities that we don't have an officer to go to."

But community service isn't all they handle. Cavin said they're a huge asset at emergencies.

"The Explorers can be utilized in traffic control or scene security," he said. "They're trained on evidence collection and evidence processing."

The explorers do require about $2,000 annually from the department for fuel, uniforms, and training. YPD said when you compare that amount to the 5,000 volunteer hours they put in each year, that amount is well worth it.

"The cost is cents on the hour that they're actually working," Cavin said.

YPD is always looking for new members ages 16 to 20. Contact them if you're interest.