PPD Explorer Post 2600 places at Winterfest competition

PELHAM – Earlier this month, youth in the Pelham Police Department’s Explorer Post 2600 traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to participate in Winterfest 2019 and nabbed a second-place win.

From Feb. 8-9, the Explorers competed against more than 100 other explorer posts from all over the nation to see which posts have been trained to handle various law enforcement scenarios the best. Winterfest, hosted by the Boy Scouts of America, isn’t just for police explorers – there were also competitions for those participating in aviation, engineering, fire and EMS, health care, law and government programs and much more.

PPD Officer Preston Jones, an advisor for Post 2600, said the group competed against 30-40 other posts in scenario-based events. They won second place in the “robbery in progress” scenario.

“They enter the scenario not knowing what’s going on and they are evaluated on how they respond in that particular situation. They’re graded on their interactions with the suspect, the victim and the tactics they use to collect evidence,” Jones said.

Jones said this year marked the group’s third time participating in the competition in the four years since the post was started.

“Last year we placed fourth and fifth in several events, but this year is the first time we ever won a trophy,” Jones said. “I really can’t find the right words to say how proud we are of our kids.”

Jones said there are 13 active youth in the program and seven went to the competition. A team of four competed in the “robbery in progress” scenario. Of the four kids in the robbery scenario, Jones said three of them were participating in Winterfest for the first time and had never done anything similar to it. They were nervous, he said.

“The minute it was all over, they walked up to me and said they were so glad they did, and that was before they found out they won second place,” Jones said.

They also participated in a rifle simulation, an “officer down” scenario, an interview and interrogation exercise and a driving simulation, where they were in pursuit of a vehicle. The groups also participated in employment interviews.

“The employment interviews were not graded,” Jones said. “They received tips and feedback about to improve their job interview skills.”

The trip was completely funded through money raised by fundraisers. Jones said the program supports itself and does not receive funding from the city. Parents of participating youth also don’t have to come out of their pockets to pay for anything.

Through a partnership with Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, the post works traffic control in the parking lot during concerts and events.

“It has been a huge fundraiser for us,” Jones said. “It allows us to buy all of their uniforms and equipment, and it paid for all of their fees and travel expenses. We also took them to do fun things while we were there to take some of the pressure off. Hopefully we’re raising them to be good future police officers.”