Pictured from left, Pinellas Park Police Explorer Post 912 members Manny Newsome, Alyssa Bryant, Christin Hutchinson, Owen Reich, Thomas Boyle and Jeff Detrano with their second place trophy.
PINELLAS PARK – Despite some fierce competition, Pinellas Park Police Explorer Post 912 came home from the Florida Association of Police Explorers state skills competition held June 23-28 in Crystal River with the overall second place trophy.
Twenty-nine posts competed at the event and Pinellas Park only lost to the first place winners, St. Petersburg Police Explorers Post 980, by seven points.
The competition tests the police skills of the youths involved in these posts, which are chartered through the Boy Scouts of America. The categories, which are tested through scenarios based on those a police officer might encounter in real life and created by the FAPE judges, included traffic stops, building clearance and crime scene.
Police Explorer Jeff Detrano brought home two individual trophies – he came in first in the physical agility obstacle course and placed third in the driving competition – and Post 912 placed as a team in a number of categories.
“Once I saw that we were racking up so many trophies, I had a feeling we were going to do well overall,” said Detective Benson Dimaculangan, the group’s head adviser. “It’s really exciting and well-deserved. We competed against some big agencies, with bigger budgets.”
He added, “Here we are, little Pinellas Park, nobody knows where we are, and they announce that we won second place.”
Alyssa Bryant, a member of Post 912 for three-a-half years, said she knew going into the competition that their group would do well.
“I felt from the moment we got started that we’d do good,” she said. “We have good teamwork and know how to communicate good together.”
The post has been training hard since school let out on June 4, said Dimaculangan. Each day the group of 22 youths trained from noon to 5 p.m. practicing the same skills and scenarios they might be tested on at the state competition.
The difficult part is that they don’t know what the scenarios will be until each category’s competition begins, Dimaculangan said, so there’s no definitive way to prepare for the event.
“And they like to throw us for a loop sometimes,” Dimaculangan said.
In one competition, the members of Post 912 entered a crime scene responding to a robbery call. But it turned out that during the initial crime, a child in the home had gotten outside and was unresponsive in the pool.
“So it started out as a robbery, and turned into a first aid rescue,” said Dimaculangan.
In addition to this annual competition, these Explorer posts are primarily service-oriented groups. The youths involved, who can range in age from 14 to 21, help out at a variety of city events, including Holiday in the Park, the Pinellas Park Holiday Parade, Bark in the Park, Country in the Park and more. They assist with a number of duties, everything from parking to grilling hamburgers and hot dogs.
This community service is part of what inspired Bryant to join. “I wanted to give back,” she said. “This post, it’s like a big family. They’re so fun to be around, and I love helping out our community.”
The program is great for youths who think they might want to pursue a career in law enforcement, Dimaculangan said. A number of the post’s members attend Pinellas Park High School’s Criminal Justice Academy, and after graduating from high school, some have even gone on to become members of the Pinellas Park Police Department.
“It’s a really great program and has produced a lot of successful officers at our agency,” he said.
Anyone interested in joining the Police Explorers can contact the Youth Services Division at 727-541-0764 or 727-541-0864.