La Habra PD explorers on path to become leaders

By Lou Ponsi

Nearly every law enforcement agency has a Police Explorers program.

Typically, explorers are youngsters, ages 14 to 21, who are considering a career in law enforcement.

The explorers get a feel for the profession by working in various units within the department, such as traffic, investigations, and patrol. They interact with sworn and civilian personnel at all levels of an agency, and they assist with crowd control at community events and go on ride-alongs with officers.

Noi Dumpit, chief instructor for Gateway Cities Krav Maga, works with LHPD Explorers Alexander Vanderas, 17, and Jose Gomez, 18, right, during a self-defense class for explorers.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

La Habra Police Department’s Explorers Post 850 and Junior Explorer Club 849 offer something else.

Once a week, LHPD explorers and junior explorers (ages 12 to 15) practice a self-defense discipline known as Krav Maga.

Translated from Hebrew, Krav Maga is “contact combat,” a self-defense system designed for the Israeli Defense Forces and Security Forces.

Noi Dumpit, chief instructor for Gateway Cities Krav Maga, demonstrates self-defense techniques with 18-year-old Explorer Jose Gomez.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Many techniques originated from other fighting systems such as kick boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling, and boxing.

“It’s simple, it’s effective, and it’s practical,” said Fortunato Noi, owner of Krav Maga Family Self Defense Center in La Habra, where the La Habra PD explorers train once a week. “The primary goal is to prevent and get out of the deadly situation.”

The Krav Maga system is designed to bring students to a proficient skill level in a relatively short time period. Krav Maga is similar to self-defense techniques used by law enforcement, LHPD explorer coordinator Officer Ken Gustin said.

La Habra PD explorers run through stretching exercises as they participate in a self-defense class.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“All of the skills are adaptable to everyday use,” Gustin said. “Not only that, it teaches them discipline, structure, working with others, and certainly gets them in good physical shape.”

Along with Krav Maga training, there is a regular exercise program and weekly meetings that incorporate not only an education in the field of law enforcement but life skills as well.  They learn how to speak to people face to face, a skill that some younger people just don’t have given the technology in use today, such as texting, emailing and Facebook. Explorers also learn how to interview for jobs both in the law enforcement field and for private jobs. Post 850 focuses on giving the explorers useable skills they can take into adulthood.

Most of the 25 explorers in Post 850 do indeed aspire to a career in law enforcement, and being in shape physically is just one element in the overall makeup of an explorer.

Noi Dumpit, chief instructor for Gateway Cities Krav Maga, instructs LHPD explorers on wrestling techniques.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Within the first year of joining the post, explorers must complete an 18-week Explorers Academy, where they are schooled in subjects related not only to law enforcement, but to leadership and life skills. They learn about accountability while building character and self-esteem.

To earn the title of explorer, the youngsters also must pass a three-person oral interview with La Habra PD.

“If you can get through a three-person oral where you are facing three people in uniform who you’ve never met before, then you can pass any job oral anywhere,” Gustin said. “Quite a few of our officers came up as explorers in this post.”

Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Jose Gomez, 18, is one of the Post 850 explorers who recently completed the 18-week academy class and is looking forward to a law enforcement career.

Gomez, who grew up in La Habra and attends Fullerton College, said he was a shy kid before becoming an explorer.

“It helps me get out of my comfort zone,” Gomez said. “When we attend events, I get more open and I can talk to people better. It helps me with my leadership skills too now that some of us have ranks in the post. I feel like I’m getting the foundation of it.”

LHPD CSO Ken Gustin, lead explorer advisor, works with Explorers Baleira Midina and Jamie Jung during a self-defense class.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Jesus Borja, 15, also completed the academy class and has been a member of LHPD Post 850 for a year.

“Being an explorer is actually very fun,” Borjas said. “We are all basically like a family. We look out for each other. We all try to be friends with each other but then when it is time to get serious and down to business, we get serious.”

Whittier Christian High School student Leslie Guerrero, 17, is currently enrolled in the Explorers Academy. Like most of her brothers and sisters in Post 850, Guerrero has goals of working in law enforcement.

Leslie Guerrero, left, attends an LHPD explorer meeting with her colleagues. Leslie’s older brother, Luis, who wanted to become a La Habra Police officer but died in 2015 after brain surgery, inspired Leslie to seek a career in law enforcement. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It is a great experience,” Guerrero said. “I like that we get to serve at events. We get to help the community. I like that we do programs and activities that allow us to grow as a unit, as a team, and as a post.”

Gustin encourages the explorers to apply for positions within LHPD, but is satisfied if they wind up with jobs at other agencies.

La Habra PD explorers listen to a lecture on law enforcement principles during an explorer meeting held at Church of Christ in La Habra.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“If law enforcement isn’t their thing, the skills they learn in this program alone … they can pretty much do any job,” Gustin said.

For more information on LHPD Explorers Post 850 and Explorers Club 849, contact Officer Ken Gustin at lhpdexplorers@lahabraca.gov

La Habra explorers, including Jamie Jung, center, attend a meeting where they hear a talk on integrity and preparing for interviews for law enforcement, or for any job.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

La Habra PD explorers attend a meeting led by advisors.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC