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York County teens and young adults who are considering careers in law enforcement or want to learn about police work can now join the county's new — and only — Law Enforcement Explorers Program.

Northern York County Regional Police have partnered with Boy Scouts of America to bring the national program back to York County after a lengthy hiatus.

"We're looking to recruit youth ages 14 to 20 who are willing to commit to one to two evenings a month," Deputy Chief David Lash said. "As the only Explorers Post in the county, we're open to anyone in York County to join."

"We want to bring as many opportunities to the youth in York County as we can," said Rebekah Schardt, STEM and Exploring executive for Boy Scouts of America's New Birth of Freedom Boy Scout Council, which serves a six-county area in south-central Pennsylvania.

Schardt said the council also is looking into the possibility of creating a firefighting-based Explorers Program in York County and said the council wants to partner with any local businesses interested in exploring youth outreach.

The nationwide Explorers Program has been co-ed for 75 years, she said.

Police are hoping support from local businesses will help defray costs for young explorers.

"As part of our planning ... we are looking for financial donors from the business community," Lash said.

March 27 session: An informational session will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 27, at Northern Regional headquarters, 1445 E. Canal Road in Dover Township, Lash said.

The informal session will give prospective explorers a chance to speak with officers involved. Those interested can stop in any time during the session, he said.

"We'll probably have an additional informational meeting sometime in April," Lash said. "And there will probably be a weeklong mini-academy/training session during the summer. Then meetings will begin in September. ... There's been a lot of work done behind the scenes already."

Sgt. Chris Irwin will lead the Explorer Post, with other Northern Regional officers pitching in as well.

"He has a background in scouting, as do all of our assistant leaders, so they're familiar with the inner-workings of Boy Scouts of America," Lash said, adding Irwin volunteered to lead the post because it's something that's close to his heart.

"He's already put in a considerable amount of work so far into getting us up and running," Lash said.

Recruitment tool: Northern Regional decided to create a new Explorers Program both as a way to connect with the community and as a recruitment tool, according to Lash.

"We're making great connections with youth through our school resource officer programs ... and this is an outgrowth of those programs," he said.

The program also is a way for police to interact with students interested in law-enforcement careers, he said, and gives officers the chance to mentor and guide those students.

"Five, six, seven years down the road we're hoping this pays dividends for us in recruiting — especially in underrepresented groups," Lash said, meaning women and minorities.

He said his department has partnered with the Black Ministers Association of York to help with that effort.

Fun, but regimented: Lash predicted the program will be a lot of fun for participants, but warned it will be strict.

"It's going to be a very regimented program. We are going to have specific agendas for each meeting," he said. ""This is going to be intense ... so they truly get exposure to (the realities of) law enforcement."

There will be field trips, activities and talks from local experts "from just about every police department in the county," he said, and explorers will have a uniform to wear.

"We will do our best to include anyone who shows interest, regardless of their situation," Lash said, and will try to accommodate the needs of interested explorers, whether that's transportation or financial assistance.

Although it costs $33 for a youth member to join for a year, those annual dues will hopefully be paid for with donations from businesses as part of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, according to Schardt.

"I've been reaching out to our local school districts and we have gotten a lot of good feedback," she said.

Requirements: To be part of Northern Regional's Explorers Program, youths must be at least 14, or in junior high school or high school, and must maintain a minimum "C" average.

They must be responsible citizens with good moral character, and they must be able to "safely perform duties of this position without posing a threat to the health and safety of themselves and others."

Explorers also must be U.S. citizens and have the approval, support and cooperation of parents or guardians.

They will learn about criminal and traffic laws, criminal investigations, crime prevention, accident investigation, juvenile delinquency, traffic control and direction and other topics integral to law enforcement, according to Lash.

Countywide? Other police departments in York County have contacted Northern Regional Police offering to help and perhaps even form a partnership, according to Lash.

"This has the possibility to grow into the York County Police Explorers Post," he said.

Local businesses interested in supporting the program can call either Lash or Irwin at police headquarters, 717-292-3647, or contact Schardt at 717-843-0901 or rebekah.schardt@scouting.org.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

 

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