An Interview With A MODG Sheriff Explorer

PC: Alina Rubo. Free to use under the Unsplash license.

Robert Russell, a Senior Explorer in the Ventura County Sheriff’s Explorer Program was graciously willing to talk and explain the inner workings of the program. Robert is a rising senior in high school and is interested in pursuing law enforcement in the future. He has been a part of the Explorer program since 2022 and is currently with Post 9202 in Ventura County.

What’s the full name of the program?

Ventura County Sheriff’s Explorer Program. My post is number 9202 within the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

What exactly is the program?

It’s a program of kids that can volunteer and learn about all aspects of law enforcement. You have a patrol deputy teaching you things about patrol, you have a SWAT deputy teaching you SWAT things, and they have you apply it in different areas. You get to travel and compete against other posts, you get to do ride-alongs with the sheriffs and learn everything about the sheriff’s office. You’ll often also do security at all sorts of things, such as music festivals.

How did you find the Explorer program?

I had a cool friend who was in the explorer program and I thought it was super cool. The idea was that you do something really tough and people will respect you. I heard all these awesome stories from him and saw him do the SWAT training. Then when I got a bit older, my friend’s sister forced me to go and it was amazing. The difference between the first day in the program and today is such a drastic difference confidence-wise. It does build you up.

What activities do you get to do as a member of the program?

Well, as a member (not ranked or anything) you get to experience training, going on patrol, and get to interact directly with law enforcement. Then you also get to go to competitions and trips (camping trips, beach days).

You mentioned a ranking system. Can you explain that a bit more?

The ranking system is essentially people who get promotions in the Explorer program based on excellence and dedication to the program. It models after the ranking system in an actual sheriff’s office. Each position has different responsibilities. You have (from top to bottom) Seniors, Sergeants, Captains, and Commanders. The higher you are ranked, the more you oversee. Seniors and Sergeants train recruits a lot more while Captains do a lot more of the curriculum and educational background.

What’s your rank currently?

I’m a Senior Explorer. What I’ve been doing is putting together training manuals for the new recruits that weren’t available when I was a recruit.

What is your favorite part about the program?

I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I really like being able to work with people, and honestly, I like to think I look cool while working for the Sheriff’s Department. It’s also really interesting to learn about the beaurocratic system within law enforcement because it’s very realistic. It’s hard but really rewarding when you are still able to get things done even with difficult people. The program has also taught me how to deal with different personality types and how to take charge.

What is the culture of the Explorer program’s culture like?

It’s a very strong culture when you have the same range of ages. Sometimes you’ll see a post where the age ranges are very big, but other times everyone will be pretty close in age.

Who would you recommend the program to?

I would recommend it to anyone who wants to do it. You’ll know if you don’t want to do it necessarily. When you go through Academy, everyone becomes very like-minded. You’ll think originally that maybe you can’t respect authority or you don’t want someone yelling in your face. But after a short period of time, it’s a much different experience than you think it is. You become super focused and forget about all these perceived ideas and opinions that you might have.

For people who may be considering it, do you have any advice for them?

I’d say to try it out. Give it a few meetings and talk to people! Contact the local Sheriff’s office or police office and see if they have a program. It’s so worth it to try it out.