Law enforcement explorers from across the state are gearing up for this Saturday’s competition taking place in Waxahachie.

The event, known as “Attention All Units,” is being hosted by the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office and will provide a realistic experience for explorers to learn about how law enforcement works.

“Attention All Units is an advanced skills competition created to challenge some of the more experienced explorers who have been to multiple competitions. We developed the idea for AAU through relationships made over the past 18 months in exploring and from our explorers competing in Plano X, hosted by Plano Police Explorers. The competition simulates a real patrol shift,” Ellis County Sheriff’s Office post advisor Sgt. Matt Murrey said.

“This is kind of our niche into the competition world. The competition will consist of 11 teams from 11 different agencies from across the state. They will come from as far south as Corpus Christi and as far north as Plano and all points in between,” he said.

What makes this competition stand out is that at other events explorers are told exactly what mock situation they are going into, such as a felony traffic stop.

At this competition, dispatch may tell explorers to check out something like a noise disturbance. Explorers will have to use their investigative skills when they arrive on scene to determine whether it is more than just a noise disturbance, such as a domestic disturbance or burglary call.

“The explorers will actually be riding in a squad car with an advisor. They will roll up to a house or a hotel out in the general public and practice their skills. It is more of a real live setting like what we would do and that intrigued me because to me they will learn more,” Sheriff Johnny Brown said.

“It is also getting the community involved and that is what I love about it. We have students from SAGU that are going to be actors, we have volunteers that are not in law enforcement that are going to be actors. It is going to be a great deal I believe and it is not to show anybody up. It just takes exploring a step further,” he said.

Brown expressed his appreciation to the members of his office, other agencies and volunteers who have worked together to provide the best possible experience for the participating explorers. He also wants the public to be aware there will be police vehicles from other agencies on the street and for the public not to be alarmed.

Explorer posts that are participating in Saturday’s event are from the Arlington Police Department, Corpus Christi Police Department, Dallas Police Department, Harris County Constable, Irving Police Department, Lake Jackson Police Department, Plano Police Department, Red Oak Police Department and Waxahachie Police Department. 

“I think this event shows the true character and hard work that this post put in and has been through, just coming from not long ago being a very small post to where we are now. It also shows the character of the sheriff’s office in general allowing us do something like this that is rarely done in explorer world,” post advisor and deputy David Gardner said.

“This competition they call an extreme explorer event but it’s real world. The events that these young people are going to see are exactly what law enforcement in general sees every day when they go to work,” he said. “I think that the explorers are in for an experience that they will never forget.”

The competition will start at the historic courthouse in downtown Waxahachie, where Brown will brief the explorer teams at 11:15 a.m. Afterwards, the explorers will be sworn in as honorary deputies for the day. Explorers will have no power of a real peace officer, with the exception of the controlled and monitored scenarios. The competition will last from 11:15 a.m. to midnight.

The 11 teams will compete in 10 events; every team gets assigned to every event at some point through the competition. The National Guard Armory on Grand Street will serve as the sheriff’s substation for the day where everything will operate out of along with a dispatch center for the event.

Each team is required to bring a uniformed peace officer, who will drive a marked patrol vehicle from that agency and take the team to simulated calls dispatched out through the radio. While the uniformed officer drives the vehicle, the explorers will have provide directions through the use of maps.

Calls will take place at actual locations such as businesses, model homes or apartments that have been prearranged to be used with the permission of the property owner.

When a team arrives on the scene, the officer will be directed where to park and position the patrol vehicle. Once at the call, the explorers will take over and use their training to determine what the situation is and what action is needed.

At some point during the day, an “attention, all units” call will go out. That call will be an exhibition event and is not for score. It will involve all 11 teams being dispatched to one major mock incident in the area.

The competition ends with a dinner and award ceremony. Awards will be presented to first, second and third place teams based on overall average score. An individual trophy will be awarded to one contestant from participation in a police situation simulator.

“I think what we have planned will not be like any other. What we have going with ‘attention, all units’ is simply as close to police work as they are going to come to until some day when they get sworn in and put on a badge and a gun belt. I’m excited to see what people thing about it. In my humble opinion I think that it will be one of the most exciting opportunities that these explorer posts will get to attend each year. Hopefully we will get to make it an annual event,” post advisor Sgt. Alvin Sims said.

“To be a post that is a year to a year and half old and to take on the initiative to put something of this magnitude together says a lot about Sheriff Brown and his backing along with all the other administrators that back this program,” he said. “I think that it says a lot about our post leader Matt Murrey, who’s put a lot of work and effort into putting something so major together. I think that it is going to be a great success.”

The police explorer program introduces youth to the career of law enforcement, allowing them to learn about the role police officers play in the community. Explorers receive the same type of training officers receive and use that knowledge in realistic scenarios. Leading the post as advisors are current and former members of law enforcement, who share their knowledge with the post members.

At competitions, explorers compete in realistic situations an officer might face in the field, such as a traffic stop, domestic disturbance or a hostage negotiation, vying against other posts for trophies. They are graded by law enforcement officials on their use of proper police procedures.

Murrey expressed his appreciation to the National Guard for the use of the armory, administration and staff of the sheriff’s office, parents of the explorers who have put in time helping and agencies from in and outside of the county that have come together to make the event a success.

For more information about the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office Exploring program, contact Murrey at 972-825-4946.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1458.