UPPER WEST SIDE — Leaders of the 20th Precinct's NYPD Explorers program don't shy away from letting their teen members act out intense police scenarios — from working a domestic violence case and pulling over a car to reacting to a bomb threat or even managing a hostage negotiation.
Now, for the first time, the Explorers are trying to take their skills on the road, attempting to raise enough money to compete at the National Law Enforcement Exploring Conference in Indianapolis this July.
"We teach the children the law, what it is we do, self confidence, unity, doing community service," said Officer Adrean Ward, who along with Officer Netfa Richards oversees 30 members who meet on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for the work-training program.
Lewin Rodriguez, 16, who is in his first year in the Explorers program, said it's also about "creating a good relationship with police and keeping kids off the streets."
The five day-conference features seminars on gang intervention, hate crimes on the Internet, and narcotics trafficking, among others. Teams also compete in scenarios like fighting white collar crime, whether to fire a pistol, intervening in a burglary in progress and crisis intervention. Individuals can try their hand in a physical performance test, a written police exam or a bike policing competition. Those with training certification can compete in pistol firing challenges.
But the trip isn't cheap, as it will cost $600 for each Explorer to attend and compete, Ward said. The 20th Precinct Community Council plans to contribute but hasn't determined how much yet, said council president Ian Alterman.
The team, which needs to send at least six students to the conference, is searching for other ways to find support, too, Ward said. They're seeking donations from community members, which can be made by calling the precinct and asking for Officers Ward or Richards, and also investigating corporate donations.
"We want to show how unified we are as a post," said Kaydee Acevedo, 15, who said she wants to eventually become a police officer and work in the K-9 unit.
Ward and Richards care deeply for the program largely because of what it does to turn around kids' self esteem, Ward said. When a member can't pay for some of the incidentals involved, the officers often take it out of their own pockets, she noted.
"We get a lot of parents who come in [to the precinct] and they’re having problems with their children," Ward said. "The next thing you know, their kids are joining."