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For some Pasadena Police Explorers, their first impression of Sgt. Glenn Thompson, their advisor, roused a bit of trepidation.
The booming voice. The eye-to-eye glare. The gripping handshake, all within the frame of an NFL linebacker.
But then comes the wide smile, the hug and words of encouragement and the apprehension melts away, replaced by the feeling that this man cares.
“He means business but at the same time he does it with love,” said Michelle White, Pasadena Police Department (PPD) park safety specialist, who also serves as Explorers’ advisor along with Thompson. “The love comes out even when he is yelling.”
The Explorer program is for students ages 14 to 21, who may be interested in a law enforcement career or are just looking to build character and confidence.
Thompson, 57, has served as the advisor for the PPD Explorers for nearly all of his 28 years on the job, taking on the role of teacher, mentor, coach and guidance counselor.
“For me, it’s to help young people and to mentor young people,” said Thompson, father of two who has been married for 33 years. “I know this program is very vital. If I deal with (the youngsters) here, we don’t have to deal with them on the streets when they get to be adults.”
It starts with instilling such basics as saying yes sir and yes ma’am giving them responsibilities and fostering skills needed to function on their own, Thompson said.
PPD’s 30-plus Explorers take on volunteer assignments that include directing traffic for community events around town an at the Rose Bowl.
Explorers go on ride-alongs with police officers and participate a variety of competitions against Explorers from other agencies.
Thompson and White make sure their Explorers are keeping up their grades and will provide tutors to students who need extra help.
“When they come back and say they got an A, that is what makes my day,” Thompson said. “Or when they come and say their mother complimented them because they did their chores.”
Sometimes Explorers confide in Thompson and White regarding family issues and personal problems.
“A lot of them don’t have fathers in the house,” Thompson said. “When they come here, we are like their father figures. Miss White is their mother figure.”
Working in PPD’s Community Services Division, Thompson also helps run the department’s Police Activities League, a year-long program that provides a variety of after-school and summer programs for the city’s youth.
Explorer Miguel Alvarenga 18, took part in the Police Activities League and that’s when he met Thompson for the first time.
“He has a very unique character,” Alvarenga said. “If you meet him, you might not know him. You might not know him by name. But you know who he is.”
The values Thompson instills are the ones instilled in him as a child, growing up in South Central Los Angeles, the second youngest of six children whose father was a former U.S. Marine.
“We ate as a family,” Thompson said. “We ate whatever our parents fixed. We went to church as a family. When we woke up in the morning, we had to clean up before we did anything.”
Anything less than a B on a report car was unacceptable, Thompson said.
He was himself an Explorer for LAPD while he attended Los Angeles High School, where he was a three-sport athlete.
Thompson’s first goal was to open a printing business, but when that didn’t work out, he went with his second option, which was law enforcement.
Frank Balocca, a four-year member of the Explorers, was 5-years old when he met Thompson for the first time at a PPD Halloween event. Balocca said he was a bit frightened at first, but those feelings have long since changed.
“He’s a really good guy,” Balocca said. “He’s really good role model. He is one of the best people I know.”
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