Months of preparation, education and training will be put to the test this weekend for the members of the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office explorer post. Explorers will compete at the state competition held in Fort Worth on Saturday.

“State completion is the biggest one that we are going to attend this year. There are over 95 teams that will be there from around the state and adjoining states. I think that this competition is going to be a little bit harder than the ones we have gone to before because there are so many more teams that are competing,” post advisor Sgt. Matt Murrey said.

“This will be the first time that we are taking four teams of four explorers. In the past we have only taken two or three,” he said. “One of the teams is comprised of a lot of the newer people who have joined the post in the last 60 days. I’m really excited about the new rookie crop. They are all brand new but they show a lot of promise.”

Murrey said sheriff’s office chaplain deputy Bruce Stayments will offer a prayer to open the event up and explorer Jake Granger will play the national anthem on his violin as part of the opening ceremonies.

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. 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 hostage negotiation, vying against other posts for trophies. They are graded by law enforcement officials on their use of proper police procedures.

The competition will also feature some new events for explorers to compete in, including gang interdiction, crime prevention and a driving while intoxicated scenario. There will also be some individual events such as non-emergency vehicle operations. Explorers who have a driver license will drive on a closed, timed course that is marked with cones.

The sheriff’s office is hosting the burglary in progress event and investigators and deputies with the agency have agreed to act as judges. The event also will feature a squad car show. Agencies that are competing can bring vehicles to have their new vehicle design judged.

“It is very rewarding for me to see everything come together the way that it has. The core group is really starting to shine, ” Murrey said. “It is really neat to me to see the kids that I have had since this program has started who are now taking more of a leadership role training as they train the new guys. I am just kind of able to step back and let them train each other as I answer questions.”

Murrey has been nominated by the Texas Law Enforcement Explorer Advisors Association to become a member of the board for the 2012-2013 term and for state advisor of the year. He is quick to point out that it is through the hard work of the other post advisors, the continued support from the sheriff’s office, the explorers’ parents and the help of other law enforcement officers that make the post possible. While his name might be on an award, he says he’s just a representative of many people who work behind the scenes.

For more information about the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office exploring program, contact Murrey at 972-825-4946. For information on the Waxahachie and Red Oak police departments’ exploring programs, call Waxahachie officer Wess Winn at 972-937-9940 and Red Oak Sgt. Jim Langham at 972-617-7632.

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