Police Explorers... a valuable asset.

Police Explorers... a valuable asset.
YAKIMA -- "Suspect. Walk backwards slowly. Do not look at me," a young Explorer yells through a bullhorn.

You can't train a cop in a classroom. There are too many variables. That's the philosophy behind this annual State Explorers Academy.

"If I'm gonna get shot, I want to get shot right here because that's what the Kevlar is for," explains one the training officers.

These 14 to 20 year olds are forced to make life and death decisions in one mock police call after another. The hope for every state-wide police agency that has sent cadets here is that these young explorers will choose law enforcement as a career. Fewer and fewer are.

"It's difficult to find qualified applicants with clean backgrounds that have the skills, the abilities, the drive, the motivation to be a police officer…" "…so this is a great recruiting tool." This according to Ira Cavin of the Yakima Police Dept.

The cops here hardly coddle these young men and women who attend the explorer academy. In fact, they're put through mental and physical training that would rival the police academy at times. But it's not about what they're putting them through as much as it's about what they'll have to offer police departments throughout the state when this is done."

Back home, each one of these young candidates will spend thousands of hours volunteering, directing traffic, running errands and doing the menial tasks that free up sworn officers to enforce the law. A single explorer could save a department more than $100,000 a year in man hours.

And they know their stuff. Listen to the explorer in the background as cops removed a stolen handgun form the trunk of a gangbanger's car last fall.

"That's from that house on 98th or 96th. That old guy who had all the guns."

That explorer was 19-year old Joel Panattoni.

"It's all worth it to me. I know what the end goal is." And the end goal is a career in law enforcement? "Yes sir."

It has been a tough year for cops in Washington. Six dead in just two months.
And it has been a tough week for 17-year old, Josh Seeley

Josh; "A little bit hard for me."

Josh is a close family friend to Pierce County deputy, Kent Mundell... the latest to die in the line of duty. For some explorers, this would end the dream of ever becoming a cop. Not for Josh.

"Believe it or not, all this happening has made me want to do it more. You know?"

Resolve, discipline, respect. Whether they choose a cops career or not, this will have been a Holiday break well spent.