Mound Explorers continue run of strong finishes

By Blaze Fugina Community Editor

For the third straight year, the Mound Police Department Explorers earned awards in multiple events at the Minnesota Law Enforcement Explorer Association’s state contest in Rochester on April 19 through 22.

The group of five students who are in the Explorers earned first place at the competition in the categories of crime prevention, emergency first aid and hostage negotiation. The students in the group can range from ages 14 through 20, though students who are 14-years-old must have completed the eighth grade.

Sergeant Mike Sussman said that earning first in three events was an ‘unprecedented’ feat, considering that the Explorers compete in four events at the competition.

"The competition is graded by officers and is very challenging," he said. "To place in any event is an amazing feat as teams are competing against 40 to 50 other teams."

The group, which is sponsored by the Mound Police Department, is one that prepares young adults for a possible career in law enforcement.

According to the official explorer’s website, "The primary goals of the program are to help young adults choose a career path within law enforcement and to challenge them to become responsible citizens of their communities and the nation."

Sussman said that, even though many of the students who are in the explorers want to pursue a career in law enforcement, the Explorers can help prepare students for any line of work.

"Some of them may come in here, and say this isn’t for me," he said. "The skills they learn, they can take anywhere."’

In the program, Sussman said the lessons are used more as a learning mechanism for students instead of a pathway into law enforcement.

"We focus on development skills and teamwork," he said. "We make it a point not to make it a training ground."

Many of the students who are in the group do some day want to have careers in law enforcement. One of the Explorers, Lakeville resident Ben Wenande, said that he travels to Mound just to participate in the program.

"I want to become a cop when I grow up," he said. "This is a fun program to be in."

Another student Explorer, Joey Luder, said that he also is using the police program to learn the details on become a part of law enforcement.

"I love going on ride alongs and seeing the behind the scenes," he said. "I am learning the ropes, and seeing what it takes to be a police officer."

The Explorers generally meet during the school year on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. They spend half of their time working in the classroom, and half of their time working on scenarios similar to those officers experience.

Besides Sussman, who is the lead advisor to the Explorers, there were also two other advisors: Police Officers Paul Hooper and Jane Szczepanik.

Some of the topics that Sussman said the Explorers worked on throughout the year include accident investigation, arrest and search, bomb scene, crime prevention, crime scene search, domestic crisis, emergency first aid, firearms, hostage negotiation, traffic stops, white collar crime and witness interview. Sussman said that the Explorers also have toured law enforcement facilities such as the Hennepin County Jail and the Hennepin County Dispatch Center.

The Explorers also help out at various community events. They can be seen volunteering this summer at the Spirit of The Lakes Festival in July.