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Ripon hosts 300 Police Explorer cadets
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Explorers from the West Los Angeles CHP office placed a suspected drunk driver under arrest. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Some 300 Police Explorers from throughout the state converged on Ripon High to test their proficiencies in day-to-day police tactics and procedures in the fourth year of the Central Valley Explorer Competition.

The cadets filled one complete section of bleachers on the south side of the gymnasium as they took part in the 8 a.m. opening ceremonies of the competition hosted by Ripon, Modesto, Manteca, Tracy police departments and the Stockton office of the California Highway Patrol.

The Highway Patrol and its officers were new to the program this year offering an additional depth to the challenges the students faced in various aspects of real life drama.  Sheriff’s Lieutenant Chris Stevens (ret.) offered cadets his knowledge and wisdom in talking with suspects in a way that works as a calming approach toward officer safety.  Stevens has been the voice behind the microphone in countless Every15 Minute productions throughout the valley over the years.

Manteca Police Explorer advisor Officer Mike Kelly said his department had been working with the other departments in the region for a year to prepare for the weekend event that welcomed 33 teams of cadets to the Central Valley.  There were 17 challenges set up around the high school campus designed to test and teach the skills of the cadets aged 14 to 20 year old.

The scenarios included a suspicious person, hostage rescue, 5150 mentally unbalanced person evaluation, hostage rescue, vehicle search, burglary in progress, hostage negotiations, domestic disturbance, crime scene investigation, shooting skills, DUI investigations, officer down rescue, school bus assault, team pop-ups, high risk felony vehicle stop, active shooter, obstacle course and a traffic stop.

Following the completion of their individual challenges, the cadets learned from seasoned officers  what they did right in the scenarios, what they did wrong, and how they could improve their skills and knowledge for the next competition.

Manteca cadets led by Nate Krebs and Clayton Keener on an assault to capture a suspect who was held up in the high school locker room may have produced the most adrenaline as it went down.  Innocent bystanders were positioned between the lockers were found as the team advanced through the lockers in search of the suspect.  Shots of simulations rounds rang out  in the darkened rear of the locker room putting the suspect down but not injuring the others.

Manteca SWAT officers were quick to evaluate the locker room scenario as it came to its conclusion.

The use of the Manteca PD’s newly acquired SWAT armored vehicle offered additional realism as did the school bus assaults as the cadet officers were assigned to secure a school bus with students and a single gunman inside the vehicle. The firing of more simulation rounds was heard from the bus assault throughout the day as team after team went through their training.

A newly formed Explorer Post from Lathrop Police Services was on hand to observe the competition with plans to become involved next year when it will be hosted by the Tracy Police Department.

The competition that got underway on Friday continued until Saturday night when the advisors conducted a swimming party in the high school pool.  Awards were scheduled to be handed out at 9 a.m. Sunday to conclude the event and name the top finishers. 

Meals were catered in the Ripon High Multi-Use Room for the cadets who found new friends as they sat down to eat together.

A team of Explorers came from “Hawaii 5-0” country with three officers who work with the program in that heavily populated island community on a full-time basis.  They are currently preparing for their own Law Enforcement Challenge of their cadets and competitors.  It will be held in mid-July next year.  In addition to the competitive scenario challenges they are offering an opening day banquet and canoe challenge along with a luau dinner.

Many members of the challenge staff worked on their own time for the good of the cadets.