C.J. Crawford is in his third year training as a Columbus Police Division Explorer.
“A lot of things that you see cops doing – we learn in the Explorer program,” said Crawford.
Crawford said that includes conducting traffic stops, searching buildings and even responding to bomb threats.
He’s only 18 years old and a recent West High School graduate.
As part of the program, Crawford trains once a week. Sometimes twice a week. The program helps teenagers stay on the correct path in life.
“Self-discipline, that’s a big thing, just hanging out with the right people, the right crowd – that kind of thing. Making the right decisions,” added Crawford.
Columbus police are now reaching out to a new Explorers recruit class, which includes boys and girls as young as 14.
Teenagers like Alex Siefker want to wear a badge one day.
"I want to help my community, and I want to help people basically, give back, really,” said Siefker during a recent Explorer open house held by the Columbus Division of Police.
Officer Jason Jackson is a senior advisor to the explorer program.
“It keeps them off the streets, because they know what is expected of them to continue to participate in the program in terms of discipline,” said Jackson.
That discipline pays off.
Jackson says 16 former Explorers are now full-time Columbus police officers.
Crawford hopes to become one of those officers when the division begins hiring again.
But until then, it’s more training. Crawford hopes others see the Explorers as role models. He has three younger siblings.
“They see me making the decision to be on the good side. The upper side of not going to jail and doing the bad things to get into,” he added.
Several central Ohio law enforcement agencies also hold Explorer programs.
Columbus police will host another open house for anyone interested at 7 p.m. Oct. 9.
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