The VRPD Explorers — a branch of the Boy Scouts of America that teaches boys and girls ages 14-20 about law enforcement procedures — began about two years ago. Summerfest was only the second competition for the post and the first in which it placed in at least one of the judged scenarios.
“We competed in the Law Enforcement Explorers Association of Georgia competition in Cobb County in the spring and it didn’t go very well, but it was a learning experience,” School Resource Officer Michelle Moore said. “This time we put in a lot of training and had a lot of hands-on extra work from some of the officers running different scenarios with them to get ready.”
The effort paid off at Summerfest with a first place in the felony vehicle pullover scenario, first in bomb threat response, second for suspicious persons and third in cell extraction. In fact, competing against teams from Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, the team narrowly missed winning first place overall.
“We went from ‘Villa-huh?’ to ‘Villa Rica!’ by the time we left at the end of the day,” Moore said. “By the time we left everybody knew who Villa Rica was and we got ourselves on the map.”
Many of the posts represented fielded multiple teams, an eventual goal of the Villa Rica post. The post’s goal the first two years was to get up and running with good participation, acquire the necessary equipment through fund-raisers and field a competitive team.
“We’ve come a full 180 degrees from where we started,” Officer Kenny Thompson said. “And it’s through hard work and the tremendous amount of support we’ve gotten from the chief and everybody in the department who has pitched in and helped.”
To come as far as they have in such a short time is a testament to how hard the Explorers have worked to prepare.
“A lot of these kids have been here for two years now and for some of them this is their first year,” Thompson said. “It’s been a lot of work. The first competition didn’t go well, but going into this we knew we were going to compete so we worked hard leading up to it and they did a really good job.”
The post’s competition team consists of Daniel Choate, Kaley Donaldson, Reece Gilmer, Shannon Head, Justin Jordan, Brittany Smith and Nick Waters.
“They’ll have even more confidence now,” Thompson said. “They’re on that high now. As long as we can keep that core group together, we’ll keep getting better.”
In addition to their weekly meetings, the Explorers help out in various ways for the city’s festivals and other large events.
With the new school year kicking off soon, an open house for those who may be interested in becoming an Explorer and their parents will be held on Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. in the Municipal Courtroom of the Holt-Bishop Justice Center on Main Street. Anyone interested in more information can call Moore or Thompson at 770-459-0510 or e-mail them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.