Helena Explorers take first place at national competition

The Helena Police Explorer Post brought home a first place prize from the National Police Explorer Competition.

The group was met with many congratulations by Helena residents including plaques presented to them at the Helena City Council meeting held Monday.

Competing against Explorer Posts throughout the United States and the United Kingdom at the competition held July 8-15 in Flagstaff, Ariz, the Helena Post took first place in the Crime Prevention Program competition.

The Helena Post is a division of Learning For Life chartered through the Boy Scouts of America.

The group is designed to give youth between the ages of 14-21 an opportunity to &uot;Explore&uot; a career in law enforcement.

Helena Police Officer Mike Jones, a Post advisor, said the local youth developed a program known as CAP, which stands for Citizens and Police. The program’s motto is &uot;Working together to make a difference.&uot;

The CAP program, Jones said, promotes citizen awareness on crime prevention.

A highlight of the program, he said, is a power-point presentation that outlines the needs of neighborhood watch programs as well as other ways police and citizens can work together to prevent crime.

The finished project, he noted, was developed as a presentation to be given by police to business owners and at community meetings.

The program also includes use of, national bicycle registration, Operation Lifesaver, child safety belt usage, Internet safety, alcohol and drug awareness and the Stranger Means Danger program for kids.

In addition, the program includes crime prevention materials such as signs and stickers, which are given out as educational tools to local residents.

A part of that is the Identi-Kid program which allows parents to have children fingerprinted, photographed, and a DNA sample collected, to be used to identify lost or missing children. The packet is then given to the parents to keep in case of an emergency.

Helena Police Chief Mark Hall called the Explorer’s accomplishment a &uot;huge honor.&uot;

&uot;We are the largest city probably in this part of Alabama that doesn’t have a high school, so the whole city has gotten behind these kids. They brought home Helena a championship and they represented Alabama well,&uot; Hall said. &uot;I believe this is the most important category of all the competition. Crime Prevention is the most important aspect of the police service.&uot;

Jones said he wasn’t surprised the Post won first place for the CAP program even though they competed against larger Explorer posts affiliated with police departments from Los Angeles, Calif., Miami, Fla., and the New York City, N.Y.

&uot;Most departments have an officer who works almost completely on crime prevention,&uot; Jones said noting the CAP program has been a two-year effort by the Post.

&uot;They did it so well it, we let them do (crime prevention for the department.)&uot; Jones continued.

&uot;For us to get this award, that was pretty special. The award recognizes what the kids did all year long, not just a normal (one-day) competition,&uot; he said.

In addition to the first place award, the Post also won 4th place nationally in the Arrest and Search category.

Besides Jones, the Post is trained and supervised by HPD officer Craig Knight. Additional advisers are Detective Lt. Doug Jones, Communications Operator Brandon Myers, Josh Hammond and Matthew Bramer, all of whom attended the competition.

&uot;These officers and volunteers give freely and unselfishly of their time to train theses kids. They are not only a credit to the community but to their profession as well,&uot; Hall said.

Jones noted only three points separated the post from another first place award in the Arrest and Search category.

&uot;We are real proud to be able to accomplish all this especially as a small department and a small post,&uot; Jones said.

In fact, he said, members of the Los Angeles, Calif., and Honolulu, Hawaii, police departments and their Explorer posts quizzed the Helena group on what led to their success.

&uot;They asked us what we do. We let their kids meet our kids and question them,&uot; he said.

&uot;They made good friends and they made an impact on larger departments. We are most proud of them for that.&uot;

He said both department’s posts, Los Angeles and Honolulu, extended an open invitation for the local youth to come train with them.

Nineteen-year-old Explorer Kenneth Adams said the group has been focused on winning since the last national competition they attended in Atlana, two years ago.

&uot;We’ve been training for this for two years. We were the most regimented disciplined group down there,&uot; he said.

&uot;We were very shocked to win. I speak for the whole group by saying how proud we are to have accomplished this for Helena. To have the Chief, the Mayor and the city congratulate us like this, it has been big surprise.&uot;

Chief Hall said the Explorers have a bright future.

&uot;Any local police department would hire these Explorers in a minute. But whatever career they choose, I’m sure they will be successful,&uot; he said