Biology junior Alyssa Alvarado walks toward the Madla building on a Friday afternoon, making sure that her blue prop gun is holstered on her right side.
While other students wrestle with their backpacks, Alvarado wrestles with organization on her belt to make sure her prop taser isn’t holstered on the same side.
“So if you’re dominant on your right hand, you have to have it on your opposite side,” Alvarado said of the taser. “Because, I heard there was a story of someone having their taser by their gun and they used their gun instead of their taser.”
She has been a member of the Texas A&M University-San Antonio Law Enforcement Exploring program since it started in January 2019.
Through drills and competitions, the program offers Jaguars opportunities to develop leadership and communication skills while expanding their knowledge of state laws. At competitions, teams face law enforcement scenarios that require them to use skills they learned during program training. The program is an extension of the Boy Scouts of America and is sponsored by the University Police Department.
“What the Explorer program does, it exposes the students to law enforcement. We go over Texas Penal code, we do hands-on things; they learn handcuffing, they learn just about everything just like law enforcement,” said Robert O’Callaghan, post adviser and UPD officer. “They take those skills and they actually, if they’re under 21, go and compete against other law enforcement posts throughout Texas.”
The Explorers compete on behalf of the university and have won first place in felony traffic stops at both the Leon Valley Jr. Law Enforcement and the Alamo Area Law Enforcement Exploring competitions, where they compete against local high school and university posts.
“I’m very proud of this group of individuals,” O’Callaghan said.
To compete, Explorers must be under 21, although the A&M-San Antonio post does not turn away students based on their age. Older students, like 21 year old finance sophomore Robert Salazar, are still able to join the program.
“Explorers are only up to the age 21, because at the age of 21, you can enter a police academy. But we’re a little different here, so people who are over 21, like Robert (Salazar), we have them on as an adult adviser,” O’Callaghan said. “What we do is we have them go through the exact same training and go through the exact same scenario and treat them the exact same as everybody else. The only caveat is that he can’t compete. But, he’s learning everything and doing everything the same, going through the same rotations, being the officer, being the bad guy.”
Alvarado has been a member of the Explorers since the program started. The program’s scenarios have taught her how to be more assertive.
“In competition, we really have to have that higher authority voice and overcome the people or whatever situation they give us for the scenario, and we can’t shy away from that because of course, they’ll dismiss the scene,” Alvarado said.
Like Alvarado, criminal justice sophomore Albert Rodas was an original member of the Explorers. Jokingly called one of the “initial guinea pigs” by O’Callaghan, Rodas plans to stay with the program as long as possible.
“It’s awesome. I’m sticking to it until I graduate. It’s a great program,” Rodas said. “My goal is to go into law enforcement, so just to be able to take all the techniques and learn them now and get really good at it from repetition throughout the years I think is going to be very beneficial to me and my career. It correlates to everything, no matter what your major is. I mean, Alyssa’s a bio major. You can correlate law enforcement to any major and all the stuff that we learn here can be applied to anything.”
The Explorers meet 1-3 p.m. every Friday in room 120 of the Madla Building. For more information on how to join the program, students can visit the university webpage: http://www.tamusa.edu/upd/programs-services.html