Decatur Police hold graduation for first class of Explorers

DECATUR, Ala. - A summer outreach effort in the River City brings more than a dozen teenagers into the police department.

They got to see a side of police work many of us never get the chance to.

Parents and community members cheered on the first graduates of Decatur Police Department's Explorer program.

"It allows us to do outreach to our community, to our youth and build the relationships and give them an idea of what being a police officer is like," explained Lt. Proncey Robertson.

Teens between 14 and 17 spent weeks of their summer with the department, getting hands on lessons.

"A crime scene investigator came and we learned criminal investigation, how to do fingerprints, stuff like that," said Explorer graduate Matthew Tankersley.

It provides a better understanding, and potentially, an interest in becoming an officer.

"Who better to serve our community than our own folk, our own people, our own children," said Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen.

Decatur Police hope the relationship also provides guidance.

"Just recently, we've had some youth this same age group getting into some trouble. Programs like this is what we want to offer to get them on a productive path rather than a negative path," said Lt. Robertson.

"When I ask you to be a team, I don't mean just with law enforcement professionals, but also be a team with your community," said Safety Education Officer Heather Atchley during the graduation ceremony.

The department plans to continue the program, and possibly expand it to other age groups.

This isn't the end of the graduates' relationship with the department, either. They are the first inductees into a Junior Police League and can volunteer for age-appropriate police activities, such as helping with event parking at city events.