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RCSO Explorer Program reaching out to youth

Fundraiser benefits RCSO Explorer Program for youth

Rockdale County Sheriff Deputy Shane Ballard assists RCSO Explorer Program participant Cpl. Tatyanna Dejesus in learning how to lift fingerprints during a weekly evening meeting of the group at the RCSO Southside Precinct. (Special Photo)

Rockdale County Sheriff Deputy Shane Ballard assists RCSO Explorer Program participant Cpl. Tatyanna Dejesus in learning how to lift fingerprints during a weekly evening meeting of the group at the RCSO Southside Precinct. (Special Photo)

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Rockdale County Sheriff Deputies Shane Ballard and Carrie Chappell stand with RCSO Explorer Program participants in front of the RCSO Southside Precinct. Participants, not all of whom are shown, include Sgt. Derrick Williamson, Sgt. Katlyn Ricks, Cpl. Tatyanna Dejesus, Dylan Dedrick, Nyah Collins, Armani Cuello, Amber Milton-Dates, Zach Higden, Brandon Harty, Todd Snyder, Wesley Horne, Darrien Stephens, Brianna Porter and AJ Vandermeer. (Special Photo)

What does it take to be a law enforcement officer? Teens can learn the answer to that question by joining the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office Young Explorer Program.

The program allows those ages 14 to 20 to participate in activities that show them in detail the multi-faceted responsibilities of being a police officer.

The program is taught by deputies and the only fee for the Explorer is annual dues of $20, which they do not have to pay if they cannot afford it.

Other expenses include cost of uniforms and registration for competitions in which the youth from various sheriff’s office Explorer Programs perform police duties and are judged on their skills.

To offset the cost of the outfits and contests, the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office is holding a fundraiser evening at Chick-fil-A in Conyers on Feb. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Explorer Program.

During the fundraiser, the RCSO will have several cars and a K9 unit on display and deputies will be available to talk to the public.

“I hope Rockdale residents will come out and support the Sheriff’s Office Explorers,” Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett said in a press release.

“The Explorer Program is a great opportunity that is very rewarding for young adults. I even participated in the Explorer Program prior to starting my law enforcement career, as did many current RCSO deputies. It is truly a great program for our youth.”

Rockdale County Sheriff’s Deputies Shane Ballard and Carrie Chappell, who instruct the youth in the program, said they are endeavoring to increase participation, and currently about 14 teens are in the group.

While the program helps the youth glean information about being an officer, it also helps them mature and prepare to become responsible and caring adults, they said. Some have interest in law enforcement as a career; others just want to improve their college resume.

“Instead of doing something they shouldn’t be doing, they’re doing something positive,” Chappell said.

The officers are currently instituting a peer leader concept in which the older youths must achieve a rank to assist in running the group.

“It teaches them discipline,” Ballard said of the Explorer Program.

The group meets each Tuesday, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Southside Precinct in the Honey Creek area and the Explorers learn hands-on lessons in skills such as fingerprinting and handcuffing, and discuss criminal law.

They also participate in scenarios such as how to deal with the public in traffic stops and domestic dispute calls, as well as how to clear buildings, an activity in which members of the SWAT team participate.

Groups also tour the jail and the 911 center, and visit the Rockdale Career Academy where there is a shooting simulator.

“They’re really good teenagers. They have letters of recommendation and keep up their grades,” Chappell said.

To learn more about the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Program, email shane.ballard@rockdalecounty.org or carrie.chappell@rockdalecounty.org or call the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Department at 770-278-8000.