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Young People Get Hands-On Experience in Law Enforcement Through YPD's 'Explorer Program'

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YAKIMA, WA - When you think of the individuals in uniform working to keep the City of Yakima safe, teenagers probably don't come to mind. Until you learn about the Explorer Program through the Yakima Police Department. 

"So far we've been exposed to dead bodies, shootings and collecting evidence. We've helped the officers control traffic and also drug testing," said 19-year-old Explorer, Alondra Juarez. 

The national Explorer Program is giving young men and women ages 16-20 a chance to get a firsthand look at what a career in law enforcement is all about, through local police departments. 

"What we're trying to teach them is leadership," said Officer Dulce Diaz, one of the two advisers for the program in Yakima. 

There are 14 explorers in the program right now. The application process is similar to what a potential officer goes through to get hired. 

18-year-old Gina Perez tells us they not only see what officers go through, they get to understand them better as people. 

"Officers are regular people, you just have to learn how to communicate with them and if you make a bad choice, that's on you. But they're just regular people," said Perez.

Officer Diaz says most of the explorers in the program are bilingual, a skill that's very useful to the department. 

"The other thing that officers have been asking is for explorers to show up for ride-alongs to help them out with Spanish speaking," said Officer Diaz.

And 19-year-old Sandy Bautista is using those skills to her advantage. 

"Officers tell me, you speak spanish, come with me whenever you want," said Bautista. 

To learn more about the program, you can contact the Yakima Police Department at (509) 575-6200.