ELMHURST – If young people want to gain career skills, acquire a mentor and better understand what it's like to work in law enforcement, then the Elmhurst Police Explorers might be an opportunity to consider.
Leadership, confidence and teamwork abilities are some of those career skills the program builds among its participants.
"It really helped me hammer those skills out and prepare me for professional life and police work in general," said Tim Griffin, a La Grange Park detective, who participated in the program for about three years.
Griffin said it also helped him understand police work is different from what is seen on TV shows and gave him real perspective "at the front lines."
Elmhurst Police Explorers Post 66 will hold an open house at 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Elmhurst Police Department, 125 E. First St. The program is available for students 14 to roughly 20 years old.
Elmhurst Police Sgt. Brett Kaczorowski said the Police Department encourages parents to join their children in coming to the event. There will be videos, a slideshow presentation and a social mixer with current members of the post, and then prospective members will have an opportunity to try out dramatized traffic stops.
After that, the students will be treated like young adults, where they will be responsible for coming to meetings and other activities, dressing in appropriate attire and engaging in professional communication, Kaczorowski said.
The post has meetings from 7 to 9:30 p.m. every Tuesday, and prospective members need to attend three meetings before submitting an application for the academy so they are aware of what's involved in being part of the program.
Through the program, students assist the Police Department in managing crowd control at Elmhurst events such as the Turkey Trot and Rock the Block, engage in drills such as learning how to manage emergency situation response on a larger scale, participate in ridealongs, and perform other community work, such as registering bicycles so they can be returned more easily to their owners in the case of theft.
Plus, the Elmhurst Police Explorers have had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to tour the Pentagon and learn more about the Secret Service, and they compete in state competitions involving tactical and teamwork skills, Kaczorowski said. He said some of the activities the post is considering are taking a trip to New York City, going to Elmhurst escape room The Room Upstairs, and teaming up with Addison's program to do a CPR/AED training.
Mike Hamblin, an adviser for the Elmhurst Police Explorers, was in the program himself for a few years in the 2000s while he attended Elmhurst College. He said he learned professionalism, skills in making traffic stops and other trainings, and confidence.
Chicago Police Officer Joe Harding said he remains friends with Griffin and Hamblin to this day after his time in the Elmhurst Police Explorers program. He added participating in the program also can be a good fit for career and leadership readiness, even outside of law enforcement.
Harding said he learned integrity is crucial in law enforcement, and it is important to "always do the right thing" even when nobody is watching. He also learned more about tactics through the program than in his time at the Chicago Police Academy, he said.
"It's very well run," Harding said.