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Competition Tests Explorers' Skills
Looking to repeat some of the success they enjoyed last year, a group of Escalon Police Department Explorers is suiting up for competition this weekend.

Under the tutelage of Sgt. Dusty Brookshire, the cadets will take part in hostage negotiations, high risk traffic stops, active shooter scenarios and more, with all the exercises designed to test their teamwork, skills, and ability to adapt to the situation.

Competition is planned over a three-day period, starting Friday, July 13 and running through Sunday, July 15 and this year will be staged primarily at West High School in Tracy. Explorer teams will come from police departments throughout the state to take part.

"They will be handling a domestic dispute, traffic stops, do a hostage rescue, hostage negotiations, handle an active shooter in a school, do a high risk traffic stop," Brookshire said of the group.

Returning Explorers are Vaughn McKee, Blake Dunford and Mallory Schulz, with newcomers Tyler Yost and Andrew Alcantor also joining the team. McKee and Dunford are both high school graduates, Schulz and Yost will be seniors at Escalon this fall and Alcantor will be a sophomore.

On a recent training day, the group conducted some building searches to look for 'suspects' and also participated in a staged 'bus assault' where they worked to free some hostages and take the perpetrators into custody.

Along with some classroom training focusing on procedures and protocol, the field training is crucial, said Brookshire, with the cadets learning 'on the job' and having to work as a team to make sure the objectives are met and everyone comes through each scenario safely.

Schulz, Yost and Alcantor formed the trio of cadets working on the recent Saturday, conducting a building search of the new City Hall complex on McHenry Avenue, finding several suspects hiding in various rooms, some on top of shelving units and others behind filing cabinets.

"I feel a lot better this year," Schulz, 17, admitted of the upcoming competition. "I know what to expect, I'm not as nervous and I feel like I can enjoy myself more."

A little more relaxed, but still focused, Schulz added, she is hopeful the team will come home with some awards like they did last year.

Yost, 16, is looking forward to putting his new skills to the test.

"I'm real interested in law enforcement," he said of possibly pursuing it as a career. "I like the felony traffic stops."

At 14, Alcantor is the youngest member of the team but said he also is considering going into law enforcement and was eager to get involved in the Explorer program and subsequent competition.

"It sounded fun, I wanted to try it out," he said.

Brookshire said the cadets have to learn how to handle many different situations.

"They will be called to a burglary in progress, have to handle a DUI driver, do some crime scene investigation, a vehicle search," he said of the competition. "We will start out as one team, all five as one unit and for the most part, they all compete."

In a couple of the scenarios, the Explorers will decide among themselves which ones will take part when not all five can be involved.

"We train two times a month, once with just our Escalon kids and once with the Manteca Explorers," added Brookshire. "The last time (in competition), I hoped they would learn something from the experience. As long as they learned, it made me happy."

The team last year not only learned, they excelled, nailing down several first and second place honors.

"Our kids got a lot of recognition for teamwork and communication, that was the best part," Brookshire said.

For those interested in joining the police department's Explorer program, a couple of spots will open up in August, with prospective members having to be at least an eighth grade graduate and ranging from 14- to 21-years-old, as well as meeting a GPA requirement for those still in high school.