KPD Explorer program gives kids insight into policing

LIHUE — Dylan Martin wants to get an idea of what life is like for a police officer.

“I just wanted to know what police officers go through on a daily basis, and from my experience just being here, they actually go through a lot more than what the public sees,” he said.

Martin, a sophomore at Waimea High School, and Jadyn Mercer-Cayabyab, a senior at Kauai High School, are two of five high school students participating in the Kauai Police Department Explorer Program.

“A lot of people judge police about everything, and we actually know what police do and the real reason why they do things,” Mercer-Cayabyab said.

From going to the gun range and participating in ride-alongs, to learning how to take fingerprints and taking pictures of crime scenes, participants are privy to some of the inner workings of KPD.

“It’s another one of the ways people in the community can interact and see what we do,” said Troy Sakaguchi, KPD sergeant in charge of the Police Explorers Program.

Michael Contrades, deputy chief, spearheaded the effort to bring the program to Kauai in the mid-1990s.

“The Kauai Police Department’s Explorer post is a great way for youth to learn about law enforcement and participate in community events,” he said. “Our hope is that the program will provide an avenue for youth who may want to be police officers to reach that goal.”

Between four and five participants have returned as recruits and were hired by KPD, said Sakaguchi.

“The ultimate goal is to bring them back,” he said.

But even if the students don’t come back as officers, they get life skills, like public speaking, Sakaguchi said.

Twice a month, students don police uniforms and meet at the Kauai Police Department. The schedule changes depending on what the group wants to do.

Every student is trained in CPR and first aid. They are also certified to buy a firearm, Sakaguchi said.

“Even though they aren’t of age, they’re actually certified now, so when they do become of age, they can apply,” he said.

Of all of the activities he’s gone through, Martin said he enjoyed the gun range the most.

“It’s super fun, and we get to learn more about gun safety,” he said.

Equally as important is teaching the students the importance of community service, Sakaguchi said.

Students have participated in events like Shop with a Cop, Cop on Top and the Torch Run, which opens the Special Olympics.

Mandie Manuel, a sophomore at Kauai High School, said her favorite part of the program is getting out in the community. “That’s how we bond,” she said.

Manuel was inspired to join the program after Sakaguchi recruited at Kauai High School.

“I thought this would be a good way to get community service hours,” she said.

Cayabyab said her dad, who works for KPD, encouraged her.

KPD is recruiting for the Explorer Program, which is free.

“The program is not only for those that want to be officers, but also for those who just want to know more about the profession and want to have fun learning,” Contrades said.

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