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Teens get first-hand law enforcement experience

Posted: September 26, 2015 - 11:00pm
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Columbia County Sheriff's Office explorer scout Alex Hernandez (front) and David Easler lead the way down a hallway as they practice clearing a house under the direction of Capt. Clay Smith. Photo by Jim Blaylock
Columbia County Sheriff's Office explorer scout Alex Hernandez (front) and David Easler lead the way down a hallway as they practice clearing a house under the direction of Capt. Clay Smith. Photo by Jim Blaylock

Daniel Easler lifted his gun, centered his attention on closed doors in the hallway and moved forward with is partner Alex Hernandez.

The pair moved slowly and methodically clearing room by room at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office shoot house on Tuesday.

Easler, 17, is one of 15 members of the sheriff’s office Explorer Post 63, who received valuable training on how to clear rooms and buildings and to search for suspects and victims.

The teen said he plans to pursue a career in law enforcement after graduation and his years in the program helped cement that decision.

“When I first started, I was hesitant about doing it,” Easler said. “But once I got into it, I really enjoyed it.”

The Explorer program, which began at the sheriff’s office in 1996, is designed to give teens a real-life idea of what working in law enforcement is like.

“It’s for teenagers who are interested in a career in law enforcement,” said Lt. Patricia Champion, who helps oversee the program. “We go over some of the same training and tactics (as deputies). ... They do a variety of things, some of the basic things we do in law enforcement.”

Explorers get a lot of the same training as deputies including handcuffing, traffic stops, inmate extraction from a cell, crime scene processing and evidence collection and dealing with domestic situations.

“It gives them some of the background, basics and training that they may need for a career in law enforcement as well as experience that can use in the future,” Champion said.

Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Bultman said he got involved in the program, thanks to a family friend and deputy, in a critical time in his life. He was a rebellious teenager not making good decisions when he joined the group in 2008, at 14.

Now, at 22 and a road patrol deputy, Bultman is glad he did.

“It was definitely a life-changer,” Bultman said. “It was a blast. I got a feel for law enforcement, the good and the bad side.”

He’d thought about a career in law enforcement before he joined the Explorer post, but pictured a more run-and-gun type of job. Bultman stuck with the program and ended up as the post captain.

Bultman was hired into the 911 Communications Center right out of high school in 2011. He worked as a dispatcher for more than two years and attended and graduated from the police academy before becoming a road patrol deputy in March 2014.

“After I got a feel for it, I became passionate about it I guess,” Bultman said. “I got lucky. I fell into something and it’s something I like doing.

“It’s definitely a good program. ... I attribute a lot of what I do today to learning what I did in the Explorers.”

Bultman is definitely not an anomaly. Being an Explorer often gives an applicant to the sheriff’s office a step up as they’re already known by much of the command staff.

“We have actually hired a lot of Explorers over the years in various divisions and aspects of our agency and they have turned out to be wonderful employees,” Champion said.

The program runs all year and new recruits can join any time. They meet and train several times a month and participate in various community events and projects such as the Special Olympics and Day With a Deputy.

To join, teens must be at least 14 and have completed the eighth grade. For an application or more information, visit www.columbiacountyso.org and click on Community Services Division or call (706) 541-2856.

“We want to have a positive influence on our youth in the community,” Champion said. “We want to give them an insight as to how law enforcement works and different things they can do if they are interested in a career in law enforcement and give them a positive avenue for their future.”

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