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Program Prepares Teens for Careers in Law Enforcement


February 09, 2002
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Program Prepares Teens for Careers in Law Enforcement

BELMONT, N.H. (AP) - When 17-year-old Tim Brunelle talks about his Friday night job, he glows. Never mind that it doesn't pay or that some of his peers make fun of him for it.

Since Brunelle was 4 years old, he has wanted to be a police officer. Thanks to a group called the Belmont Police Explorers, he gets a taste of that experience every Friday night.

He wears his uniform with pride, taking care to polish his boots and shine his badge. His mother said he has at least three scanners going at all times in his bedroom, and he carries a portable with him.

As captain, Brunelle is the Explorer in charge of the 16 other teen-agers and young adults, ages 14 through 20, who yearn to learn more about law enforcement. They meet weekly to train and talk about a field that interests them enough that they are willing to give up a date or a night out with friends.

The Explorers provide security on Fridays at Park Night, a regular activity for local kids put on by the police department. Belmont's is the only local Explorers program, and kids from Sanbornton, Northfield, Gilmanton and Gilford have joined.

A group in Franklin disbanded after the officer running it left for another department. The Laconia Police Explorers meet monthly, led by Officer Donald Kimtis. But the group hasn't officially reregistered with the Daniel Webster Council, which runs the program statewide.

Parents say the program is helping their kids grow up. They have more respect for their parents, other kids and the world they live in. Valerie Ulrich, a single mother from Belmont, said her son, Karl, 16, has become more responsible since joining.

"Most of the time, (Karl) is respectful and will do things on his own without being asked," she said. "I've found the program has given my son a lot of stability. He also has matured a lot. They're teaching the kids adult responsibility - to stand up when you see something wrong and help."

Cindy Carroll's son, Dan, 14, has been in the group since last summer.

"He's growing up a little more," said Carroll, who lives in Belmont. "There's an awareness; he's more in tune to what's going on."

That is the goal of the Explorers, according to Kelly Smith, director of exploring for the Daniel Webster Council.

"Exploring uses problem-solving activities to help kids develop the ability to make good choices," she said.

On Park Night, the police department entertains kids of all ages.

In the summer, Park Night can draw up to 150 kids, but it is a year-round activity. Sometimes there is sledding at the middle school or skating at the town ice rink. Sometimes there are board games and movies at the Corner Meeting House. It is not always an easy shift.

"Some kids don't like the fact that we want to be cops, so they yell stuff like 'Pig!"' Brunelle said. "But we don't care, and a lot of them realize that we don't care, so they've stopped."

Officer Sean Sullivan of the Belmont Police Department formed the group three years ago. A former Explorer, the 18-year police veteran thought the community would benefit from the program. So did Police Chief David Nielsen, who said an Explorer program got him interested in police work initially.

"The kids show up in their uniforms, which creates a lot of comments from their peers," Sullivan said. "They get abused verbally by these kids. But they walk around and make sure that the kids aren't doing something that might get themselves or someone hurt."

Explorer duties don't stop at Park Night.

The group has provided overnight security at the Alton craft fair (with an adult adviser on hand), parking and traffic control for races at New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon and the Belknap County 4-H Fair, and security during Motorcycle Week at Weirs Beach.

Sullivan said the group is well-prepared. Members receive extensive training in handcuffing techniques, traffic investigation, burglary investigation, radar classes and defensive tactics. But it is about more than just that, Nielsen said.

"All they really need is a group to belong to and to know someone cares about them," he said.




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