The future of law enforcement in Central Texas may have just completed an intensive training course.
About three dozen teenagers and young adults joined this year's Police Explorer program where they learned what it takes to be successful in law enforcement. The future officers learned from professionals in several different law enforcement agencies, including the Austin Police Department.
Their training included patrol, active shooter, and criminal investigations.
“I'm looking to become a law enforcement officer with Austin Police Department,” said Explorer class president Julio Hidalgo.
What better way to find out if you have what it takes than to sign up for a condensed police academy?
“I think the academy is just that catalyst that pushes them even more, cause they see what they're capable of doing and then that makes them want the job even more,” said Travis County Sheriff’s Office Senior deputy Laura Mabry.
The 128-hour Explorer course is open to those between the ages of 14 and 20 each summer.
2017 was the eighth year Central Texas officers held the program. “They were definitely pushing, they were motivational, but at the end of the day they cared about us so much,” Hidalgo said.
“The goal is to make them better people, well-rounded adults for society. The physical/mental benefits, those are all just added bonuses,” said Mabry.
It isn't all fun and games.
In fact, only 38 the 50 people who signed up for the class this year made it to graduation day.
“If you're not putting your whole 150 percent effort in then you may not make it. We had a lot of people come in, but not everybody came out,” Hidalgo said.
That 150 percent effort helped the young adults complete stressful training exercises.
“We expose them to different types of training that we all do in law enforcement, so, in the academy, they learned everything from how to do a traffic stop to how to approach an active shooter situation,” said Mabry.
The mentally and physically challenging academy showed Hidalgo what officers go through on a daily basis and how much a first responder must be willing to sacrifice to keep the community safe.
“I have the utmost respect for them. They went above and beyond their call of duty,” said Hidalgo.
It seems after a month of strenuous training, the feeling is mutual.
“There are some kids that I would work beside any day,” Mabry said.
Until that day comes, first responders who helped with the program will have this moment to remember.
“I'm incredibly proud. It's like a proud parent moment. It's like that with every single one of them,” said Mabry.