LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office Law Enforcement Explorer Program is a chance for 14-20 year old young women and men with an interest in the field to get hands on experience.
Participants get firearm training, learn safe vehicle handling, help out with active shooter scenarios and more. They also get the chance to compete nationally in several law enforcement categories.
Sheriff Bob Goldsmith said this program could be a way to solve a staff shortage in this field.
He's looking into ways to increase awareness and participation.
"Is that number 50 kids? Is it 100? I don't know," said Goldsmith. "But I will work with those officers that are involved in this to make sure we are able to fulfill the needs of the kids."
There's only a handful of explorer programs in the state. Purdue hosted the national conference last year. Deputy Aaron Gilman is an advisor of the program. He says he not only wants to expand it, he hopes to enhance it with upgrades too.
"Equipment, the experience, reaching out to competitions and really letting the community know we are here and we are a resource," said Gilman.
Explorer Brock Sutter who wants to be a deputy someday.
"It's encouraged me more and I've seen how people interact with us and how they are appreciative of what we do," said Sutter.
However, sometimes people aren't so appreciative. The perception of law enforcement has changed over the years. Sheriff Goldsmith believes it's one reason people aren't as willing to become an officer.
"Personal opinion would be everybody is being recorded and they cut out the entire interaction and really show the one part that could be construed as negative from law enforcement," said Goldsmith.
Sheriff Goldsmith believes the explorer program could help. Participants like Nicholas Suerdieck could act as a spokesperson for law enforcement.
"Try to explain to them that they're not bad people they are normal people," said Suerdieck. "They are just here to make sure that we are being safe and stuff."
Participants are excited for the future of the program.
"Hopefully they will come out and apply to be with our post and grow with us," said Sutter.
If you're interested in applying or volunteering to help the program, contact the Sheriff's Office at (765) 423-9388 or email Deputy Gilman at email@example.com.