BARSTOW The Barstow Police Department explorer program is getting an injection of manpower this month.

The department kicked off the 15th session of its explorer academy on Monday at the Cora Harper Community Center. The academy is back after taking last year off due to restructuring within the program, according to explorer advisor Sabrina Ellis. The program is currently down to six members, but the academy's 16 recruits will boost it to 22 members. Ellis said the 2009 class is the second largest the academy has drawn in its history. The prospective explorers range in age from 14 to 20.

"It's good to get the program running again and get kids involved," Ellis said. "The program teaches kids teamwork, how to behave in society and gives them a good grounding in the law enforcement community."

Ellis, who was herself a graduate of the explorer academy, said many explorers continue on to work in law enforcement and several are now working at the Barstow Police Department. Officer Scott Johnson, Cpl. Andrew Ellis and Det. Keith Kirby are just three examples of Barstow officers that graduated from the local academy.

The academy graduates will be enlisted to help the department during community events such as the Mardi Gras Parade, Christmas Cops for Kids and the annual Independence Day celebration, according to Ellis.

Recruit Marcos Lara, 16, said he hopes to be able to be more involved in the community as an explorer.

"At first I saw my brother Fernando doing the explorers and it made me interested," Lara said. "I want to be more of a leader and be able to help my city."

However, before the recruits get to his the streets they must make it through two weeks of instruction on the basics of law enforcement. The recruits will take classes in everything from processing crime scenes and the California penal code to the correct way to perform a felony car stop. Lt. Albert Ramirez and Cpl. Jeremy Bledsoe will instruct the academy in gun and shooting range safety before the recruits are allowed to do live fire practice at the police shooting range on Saturday.

Ellis said although the classroom instruction is important, it's good for the recruits to get hands on training.
Kaylan Smith, 14, said she preferred the academy's activities to the classroom lessons.

"I'm looking forward to learning about the buildings searches because we'll really be trying things ourselves," Smith said.

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