DP student explores law enforcement

By Julia DeRogatis

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Yazmin Chavez | Photograph by Julia DeRogatis

By Julia DeRogatis | Editor 

October 30, 2013

For Dos Pueblos senior Yazmin Chavez, this year has been a little bit different; so far she has been handcuffed, shot, and found a dead body.

Chavez has experienced all of this as a part of the Santa Barbara Police Department’s Explorer Program for young adults between the ages of 14 and 20 who want to learn about and participate in law enforcement. According to Chavez the program has about 20 participants, four of whom go to DP. There is a application process that students must go through in order to be initiated into the program, including an interview.

Chavez joined this program in the beginning of her sophomore year to prepare for a future as an officer.

“I want to be a patrol officer,” Chavez said, explaining her decision to join the Explorer Program. She released a cheerful laugh as she admitted that her choice was partially based off her desire to help people, and partially because she enjoys searching cars, an activity that she has had plenty of practice with while being an Explorer.

Chavez also occasionally joins an officer on patrol for a ride along. It was during one of these ride alongs that she and the officer found a dead body.

“It was almost the end of a shift and we get a call,” Chavez said, recalling the moments leading up to the discovery of the body. Chavez and the officer were called to a scene to check on a reported dead body.

“We were the first on the scene and we [went] and checked. . . and there [was] a [dead] guy ” Chavez said.

Initially the officer scrutinized the body while Chavez hung back. “I didn’t want to go [see],” Chavez said, “at first I just saw his hand. I got scared.”

Yet Chavez didn’t stay back for long; a few moments later when the officer asked if she would like to take a look, she shoved down her nerves and strode over to the car, unflinchingly taking in the CSI-worthy sight of the corpse.

Surprisingly, finding a dead body is not the most frightening moment that Chavez has experienced.

As part of the Explorer Program, Chavez participates in scenarios during which the explorers don uniforms and assume the roles of officers in varied situations. It was during a scenario that Chavez experienced the fear of getting shot.

“We had our active shooter situation, there was a bad guy in a stall and we weren’t able to see him,” Chavez said.

Although the guns they use have simulation bullets, according to Chavez they sound like a real weapon and pack the power of a paintball gun.

“I was the first one in and I got shot right away,” Chavez said, recalling the momentary terror she experienced after getting hit in the chest by a simulation bullet shot from a distance of about 15 feet.

Chavez notes that during the scenarios all of the participants are amped up on adrenaline. Between the uniforms and the sound of the guns, a fictional situation can seem frighteningly real.

But ride alongs and simulations are only a small part of the whole program. Much of it is spent in classes learning from the serious but friendly local police officers.

It was during these classes that Chavez became fully acquainted with hand cuffs and the difficulty of escape while wearing them.

Chavez is not the only person in her family to be involved with law. Her father is a security agent and her nine year old brother “wants to be 14 already to join [the Explorer Program] because he sees all the things we do,” Chavez said.

Ironically, despite both the personal and familial involvement in law, Chavez doesn’t watch crime shows, preferring the actual experience over the simulated drama of television.

Chavez plans to study criminal justice in college and then go on to the police academy after graduating, confident in the belief that she has found her dream job.

To become a part of the Explorer Program, contact Explorers@sbpd.com.

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