As you were growing up, did you ever want to investigate a crime scene? How about protect your community from crime? These are just a few of the things that participants learn when they become a member of the Coconut Creek Police Explorer Program.
The Explorer Program was originally an extension of the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women to examine possible career options in the late 1990s. It has since become an independent worksite-based program with posts focused on single career fields such as emergency medical services, veterinary medicine, aviation or many others. The Coconut Creek Police Explorer Program, for teens and young adults ages 14 to 20, continues today under the watchful eye of Officer Michael Zombek, who has been the program’s lead advisor for the last five years.
“It is a great program for teens to learn about law enforcement. It instills self-discipline while working with the community,” Zombek says. “Many of our members develop skills they keep with them, whether they go on to college, follow a career in law enforcement or the military, or even return to work for the Coconut Creek Police Department.”
Aside from providing school community hours, the Explorer Program shows participants what it means to be a law enforcement officer. They meet twice a month and have activities that range from learning how to deal with criminal law and arrest procedures to assisting with Coconut Creek community events. Members are also able to take patrol ride-alongs with officers and learn how to use the equipment at the police department’s disposal, including handcuffs.
“One of the most interesting things we do is work with a virtual simulator,” Zombek says. “It takes you through real-life scenarios such as domestic violence calls. It includes handling the situation verbally while being aware of your environment.”
Those who have gone through the Citizen’s Academy with the Coconut Creek government know firsthand what a useful tool this is in both learning how to handle different real-life situations as well as understand the scenarios and dangers that officers encounter on a daily basis.
“One the biggest tools the Explorers learn is their communication and social skills,” Zombek says. “Knowing how to use your ‘verbal judo’ is important to us. It can help you assess and handle a situation with a greater degree of success than using physical force. It’s always easier to talk someone into handcuffs than having to use force.”
In addition to developing community relations, leadership and other skills, members of the Explorer Program get to show off their skills by competing against other Explorer posts on both a local and state level. During this year’s Broward County Law Enforcement Explorer competition, Coconut Creek placed fourth overall against nine other agencies.
The program also takes the time to help others during the holidays. The group purchases meals for those in need using funds raised by the members and has the funds bolstered with a donation from The Women’s Club of Coconut Creek.
“We give out Thanksgiving meals every year, and we’re working on collaborating with other agencies and doing a toy drive as well,” Zombek says. “The most important thing we do is work with and for the community.”
Police Explorers Program
4800 W. Copans Road