Law enforcement offers youth training program

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— Before Bill Leonard was "Capt. Bill Leonard" of the Craig Police Department, he was a Craig kid approaching future's possibility chasm.

When he started high school, he heard about a youth program with the Police Department, the Moffat County Police Explorers, and signed up.

"Actually, I started my career in that program," Leonard said. "I started as an explorer when I was 14."

At least five of the other kids who signed up with Leonard went into different law enforcement agencies after high school, as well. Now, Moffat County law enforcement is reinstating the program Leonard fondly recalls as his first exposure to cop work.

The Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Department and Colorado State Patrol are working with the Boy Scouts of America Western Colorado Council out of Grand Junction to once again offer the Moffat County Police Explorers, local Post 2196.

Police Explorers, a national program through the Boy Scouts, allows youths ages 14 to 20 years old to work with law enforcement and experience what those officers, deputies and troopers do each day for their communities.

The Craig Police Department offered the program in the past, but discontinued it in 1994 because of the time commitment and work necessary to make it useful for the participants, said Leonard, the Police Department's operations division commander.

Members of the Police Department, which in the past ran the program exclusively, approached deputies and troopers in the Sheriff's Office and the State Patrol this time to see if there was an interest in sharing the responsibility.

"Everyone was interested in it," Leonard said.

The plan is for participants to follow members of all three organizations and do a variety of law enforcement activities.

The program will most likely involve an application process and then start by putting the participants through the Civilian Academy; a class for residents to learn various procedures police officers follow in different situations.

After that, participants would be able to ride along with law enforcement on certain calls and help with security during large events. The State Patrol has offered to take some participants in its airplane if the situation allows, Leonard said.

"The idea is to give (participants) the experience of what law enforcement is all about," Leonard said. "That's the idea of the program, to give them the opportunity to see what law enforcement is like and give them the experience to get the job done right."

In the past, the program attracted mainly high school-aged children, usually from 14 to 18 years old, Leonard added. Interested older youths are either in college or the workforce.

The Police Department started advertising the program during a Moffat County High School career day, where some students expressed interest, Leonard said. There should be more advertising soon.

Anyone interested or with questions can call Officer Alvin Luker with the Police Department at 826-2367, ext. 3337.

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cemsith@craigdailypress.com

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