With a teenager dressed in a “Michelin man” looking suit, boxes of pizza waiting and experienced professionals attending, the Wood County Explorer program launched with an open house Thursday.
Approximately 25 people attended the event held at Pct. 2 Constable Kelly Smith’s Armed Texans Training Facility east of Mineola.
Smith said the Wood County Explorer post was getting started with a great deal of cooperation and networking from different law enforcement agencies and that he, himself, is a product of an Explorer program. The program can provide young people, ages 14 to 20, education on numerous aspects of law enforcement and related fields, as well as varied experiences, but a high standard of accountability will be expected of the members.
In addition to recruiting young people for the program he is also welcoming adult volunteers, all of whom will undergo criminal background checks.
Demonstrations were given by Kevin Petty of the Pct. 5 Smith County Constable’s Office and Josh Davis of the Wood County Sheriff’s Office with their working canines. Petty was working with Hunter and he told the story of his previous working dog, Ogar, that was shot and killed by a fugitive. Petty’s new dog, a Dutch shepherd, was purchased with support from Miranda Lambert’s organization, Petty said. The extensively trained canine has been taught to find narcotics, missing persons and to protect his officer.
During the open house Smith explained that he had started Explorers posts in Canton and Mineola. Among adults who attended Thursday’s open house were Smith County Explorers coordinator Heather Stoner who said she and others from the Smith County program were willing to help if needed. She spoke of things she has learned from experience with the Smith County program. Susan Resnik represented the Wood County Crime Stoppers and said such programs offer every person an opportunity to take a stand and “improve their world.”
A criminal justice instructor at the University of Texas at Tyler and 26-year investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Jim Ruffian, attended and talked about opportunities that are being presented to those willing to take part. Ruffian also said he would be able to assist Explorer members with college admissions and other related issues.
Another guest, Kristen Sanders, is a 30-year veteran of the Orange County, California District Attorney’s office. She spoke of the value of taking part in the Explorer program for young people, even if only to “try out” the vast variety of careers in law enforcement or criminal justice. “Take advantage of it and see if it’s for you,” she said.
Smith also welcomed Wood County Pct. 3 Commissioner Mike Simmons at the meeting. The constable was appreciative of support from the county commissioners who budgeted money to start the post. He said work began on forming the group last July.
“We’ve done a lot of good solid ground work,” since that time, he said. Partnerships are also being forged with the communities, including with Mineola School Superintendent Kim Tunnell, the Mineola Kiwanis Club (represented by Kellam Newall at the meeting) and Alba-Golden School board members.