WACO, TX — Policing in 2021 looks different than what it did even just a few years back.
This past year, law enforcement was placed under the microscope following the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and here locally, Michael Dean from Temple.
The events created a sense of mistrust in some communities.
“I've given them [kids] a trading card, they rip it up because they don't like the police,” Sofie Martinez, a Waco police officer and advisor for the Waco PD Post 415 explained when asked about policing in today’s climate. “At a very young age, they were given that idea that all police do is take people to jail.”
On the more skeptical side of that conversation is Julian Arias’ family.
“I'm not going to say they're against law enforcement, but they've never been like, 'oh, you know, go become a police officer,'” Arias explained.
That same skepticism from a lot of community members, he said, is what motivated the 16-year-old to do just that and work toward eventually getting a badge.
“I want to make a difference,” he said. “I want to change that stereotype, and I want to change the way people see things, and I want to make it better for everyone.”
While the love for helping and volunteering was instilled into him already, it wasn’t until his friend from school was wearing a Waco PD Explorer program shirt that got him interested in the department’s program.
”Growing up, I've seen a lot of things in the community that really hurt my heart,” Arias explained. “I want to go out and change that to help people make a difference in somebody's life.”
The program is essentially a partnership between Waco PD and the Boy Scouts of America.
It gives 14 to 21-year-olds the opportunity to get a glimpse into the industry through training programs and simulations well before they ever have to make the decision to join the academy.
The program also competes in competitions across the nation and usually comes home with a trophy or ribbon commemorating their time.
One of the memorable times was when the explorers traveled to Indiana.
Martinez explained that while the nearly 40-year-old program has plenty of success stories, with explorers working at the local, state and federal level, many people realize the job they once imagined was for them, no longer is.
“They’re seeing first hand, can I accept everything that comes with it? Not just the good, but the bad? The realism,” Martinez said. “We try to show them about, you know, the other side of law enforcement.”
For more information about the Waco PD Explorer program, head over to their website.