Lawrence Police Explorer program helps train future police officers

LAWRENCE, Ind. -- As police departments across the country struggle to recruit new officers, a program for younger officers is giving encouragement.

The explorer program through Boy Scouts of America helps provide kids ages 14-20 with law enforcement experience, and the Lawrence post is one of the largest, growing to 34 members after a swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday night.

For many kids in the program, their interest in law enforcement began at a young age.

"(From) 5 or 6 years old it really kind of stuck with me,” said Jake Hobson, a lieutenant with the Lawrence Explorer Post No. 160.

Becoming a police officer has been a lifelong dream for Hobson, now 20 years old. Since he was 17, he’s been able to experience that dream working as an explorer with the Lawrence Police Department.

“Once I got here and had been on some ride alongs and seeing how the police department operates, there’s nothing else I would rather do,” Hobson said.

Hobson has learned the ins and outs of the job by training with officers like Brandon Raftery, who also started out as a Lawrence Police Explorer in 1994.

“You're able to make the decision, ‘Is this really the career for me?'" said Raftery. "It's true hands-on experience."

Raftery says today's explorer post is roughly double the size it was when he was a member, an encouraging sign as departments across the country struggle to recruit.

“Obviously, the way our program has grown, just numbers, just tells you that there is interest out there," Raftery said. "It's just a matter of getting the word out to the right people.”

Raftery has climbed through the ranks of the department, being named a sergeant just last week. It's a path that Hobson hopes to follow.

“That would be a lifelong dream, I think," Hobson said. "It would be amazing to serve the city and serve the department I love so much.”

Hobson is finishing up as an explorer and hopes to become a Lawrence reserve officer next year, using experience from the program that taught him much more than just a job.

"It teaches us how to be good people and good citizens, and you can't be a cop if your not a good citizen," Hobson said. "The skills and things we’ve learned are invaluable.”

For more information on the explorer posts throughout central Indiana, follow visit this website.