YAKIMA - Last week seven Sunnyside Police Explorers underwent six days of intensive training at the Yakima Training Center.
Many of the Explorers hope to one day become fully commissioned or reserve police officers and felt the training received last week will help them reach their aspirations.
To become a police officer, Tony Bustamante said an individual must be 21. The Sunnyside Explorers receiving training last week were eighth to 10th graders.
"My dad is a reserve officer and I really want a career in law enforcement because of him," said the youngest Explorer, Shawn Christensen.
The Washington Law Enforcement Explorer Academy consisted of both classroom and field training.
Bustamante and his older brother Joaquin both said the training was intensive enough to have ingrained much of the practices in their everyday lives.
The older Bustamante said, "I find myself standing stiff at school."
The Bustamantes said they address teachers using the language, such as referring to a person in authority with an affirmative "yes ma'am" or the negative "no sir."
What might seem like child's play to the average person is taken very seriously at the academy, said Luis Noriega.
The Explorers all had mishaps on the second night of training in which the trainers conducted a fire drill. During the drill horns were blown and whistles were sounded, creating a high-stress scenario.
The purpose, said the Explorers, was to teach teamwork and to help the youngsters learn to manage stress levels in a dangerous or stressful situation.
Learning these skills can be the difference between life and death in the field, as the Sunnyside Explorers all learned.
Christensen and the younger Bustamante were in the same platoon at the academy. Bustamante found he "froze" during the drill and his teammates had to get him out of his state of shock.
"That was bad because I would have died if it was real...and our guide-on (flag) burned," he shared.
Christensen said the platoon's mascot, Lufa, was hung.
"It's serious because he was a member of our team," he explained, stating that it might seem funny to an outsider, but losing the mascot is a serious situation.
The older Bustamante chimed in and said his team, too, lost its mascot in the fire drill. "Bruso the zebra burned to death after having only lived one day," he said.
When a death of a teammate occurs such as in the fire drill there are consequences.
The "burn genie" brought individuals "back to life," but the platoon was subjected to additional physical training exercises or public humiliation, according to Christensen.
The Explorers learned law in the classroom and trained for domestic violence situations, traffic and felony stops and use of force in the field.
"We learned how to conduct field interviews and terry stops," said the youngest Bustamante, explaining a terry stop is when an officer stops an individual based on reasonable suspicion.
The Explorers also received training for reading Miranda rights to an individual being detained for questioning.
The scenarios presented the Explorers were all what are referred to in law enforcement as probable cause situations, according to Noriega.
Christensen explained officers in probable cause situations do not need a warrant to conduct a search or to enter a building.
"We also learned how to determine if an individual is possibly carrying a weapon," Christensen shared, stating a trainer named Officer Phat has been known to carry 104 potential weapons on his person.
The older Bustamante said he particularly enjoyed the shooting range while at the academy. At the range, the Explorers being trained learned different stances to take when firing a weapon and they learned about various tactical weapons.
"In spite of the intensive training, I really believe the experience was fun and informative," said Noriega.
"We all gained a lot of knowledge that will further assist us in reaching our goals toward becoming police officers, and teamwork is a high survival priority in law enforcement," said the older Bustamante, stating teamwork was a primary objective at the academy.
The Explorers will now use the skills they have learned to further assist Sunnyside police officers in the field. The Explorers provide security at community events, and act in support roles when riding with officers.
Christensen added, "Our role in the community is to provide role models for other youths.