Crime scene tape, road flares, flashing light bars, wanted posters – and a bowl of donuts as table centerpieces.
The cop theme in the banquet room at the Orange County Mining Company in Orange was a nod to Law Enforcement Appreciation Month and an apt setting Wednesday night for the Garden Grove PD’s annual Explorer Post 1020 Awards Banquet.
The May 6 event honored the current 21 members of Explorer Post 1020 and recognized some for their outstanding work in 2014.
The festive and fun evening also included comments from Garden Grove Police Chief Todd Elgin, who detailed how vital the explorer program is to the GGPD — an agency that, with 155 sworn officers, is 39 officers short of the national average for a law enforcement agency of its size.
Hence the vital role explorers play, Elgin said.
“They really take the place of police officers” working traffic control and DUI checkpoints and fulfilling other duties, Elgin said.
In 2014, members of Explorer Post 1020 logged more than 7,600 volunteer hours, the chief noted.
“I’ve seen a dedication from our kids that is unsurpassed,” said Capt. Travis Whitman, who served as an explorer at the Brea PD for three years.
“We depend on them,” Whitman said. “We can’t function without them.”
Police agencies use explorers, who can be 14 through 21 years old, as recruitment tools, Whitman said.
But the main purpose is to give explorers an opportunity to learn something about policing and to teach them leadership and other life skills they can transfer to other professions should they decide not to pursue careers as cops or civilian members of police departments.
But being an explorer is a “huge” advantage for youngsters who someday want to be police officers, Whitman said.
Before the awards were handed out, Elgin went over the key attributes he and his command staff and other department staff look for in prospective police officers: leadership, honesty, integrity, courage and responsibility.
Maintain decent grades in school, stay as fit as possible, shun drugs and alcohol and be careful who you choose as friends, Elgin told the explorers and several of their siblings who joined them at the awards banquet.
“We’re looking for the best,” Elgin said.
Garden Grove Police Officer Jason Perkins, the host of the awards banquet, thanked Community Service Officer Kari Flood for being lead organizer of the event and also the mothers, fathers and other relatives of the explorers.
“We thank our explorers for their hard work and dedicated service to our community, and also thank you, the parents and families for everything you do behind the scenes raising these amazing young men and women,” Perkins said.
“We know that you are the unsung heroes that make your children available and get them to and from the station at all hours of the day of the night for events,” Perkins said. “We thank you for allowing us to use your children to help us provide police services to our community.”
TOP HOURS AWARD
One of the most common and most important events explorers work is DUI checkpoints. Collectively, the GGPD explorers worked more than 600 hours on DUI checkpoints in 2014 — hours that helped result in the arrest of 23 impaired drivers.
The winner: Explorer Jason Brito, who logged 449 hours as an explorer in 2014.
The presenter of this award was Janelle Weinberg, who lost her daughter, Ariel, to a drunk driver. Click here to read Janelle’s story.
Voted on by the advisory staff, this award acknowledges the explorer who has “made a commitment to excellence and who constantly strives for self-improvement, becoming a role model for other explorers to follow,” Perkins said.
The winner: Explorer Sergio Jimenez
“Inspiration can come in many forms,” Perkins said. “It can be in the way of teaching, encouraging, or simply leading by example. The work of an explorer is hard and praise is rare, so sometimes inspiration is all an explorer has as motivation to keep going. To be an inspiration to someone else is a unique honor.”
The award is voted on by the Explorers themselves.
The winner: Cpl. Daniel Alvarez
“Daniel has made himself into one of our best and brightest,” Perkins said.
SUPERVISOR OF THE YEAR
The supervisor of the year award is chosen by the advisory staff.
“This recipient has displayed a high caliber of leadership and has increased his or her abilities,” Perkins said. “This supervisor has been successful in teaching new explorers, and continuing to teach and mentor more experienced explorers who are working toward advancement.”
The winner: Sgt. Allyson Burillo
EXPLORER OF THE YEAR
This is the highest honor an explorer can receive from his or her peers in the program, and is voted on by members of Explorer Post 1020.
“This explorer has earned the trust and respect of his other fellow explorers, which is not easily done,” Perkins said.
The winner: Sgt. Richard Weston
“Sadly, Sgt. Weston left us this year,” Perkins said. “He’s moving on to serve in our armed forces.”
ADVISOR OF THE YEAR
Sgt. Allyson Burillo presented this award on behalf of the explorers.
The winner: Sgt. Bill Allison
Promoted to lieutenant: Allyson Burillo
Promoted to sergeant: Tanner de Padua, Daniel Alvarez
Promoted to corporal: Sergio Jimenez, Jesus Fajardo, Cody Garling
Wrapping up the evening, Perkins awarded a Chief’s Coin for Merit to Larry Barnett from Fly By Night DJ’s for providing background music and the sound system.
He also recognized Chief Darrel Cowan, a retired chief of police from Walker River, Nev., for his donations of money, decorations and time. And he gave a shout-out and Chief’s Coin for Merit to Angela Dahl, events manager for the Orange County Mining Company.