Lesesne, 22, is living his dream as a full-time Prince George’s County police officer and said he owes it all to a training program that, officials say, raised him from age 13 to adulthood.
For 35 years, the county department has been offering the Youth Explorers program, which is currently training members for the National Law Enforcement Exploring Conference in July. The national conference in Colorado takes place every two years and is an opportunity for explorer programs nationwide to meet and compete against each other to show how well they can perform skills and police-related tasks.
There are about 100 youths, ages 14 to 20, enrolled in the yearlong program, said Cpl. Conrad D’Haiti, program coordinator.
D’Haiti said there are 13 officers who got their start as an explorer, and 15 to 20 percent of the program’s youths go into law enforcement. He said the program averages between 50 and 75 youths each year.
D’Haiti said explorer posts in the county’s six districts meet weekly, receiving training in all areas of law enforcement, such as traffic stops, hostage negotiations and judgmental shooting using fake guns, for the purpose of learning more about what police do and to spark interest in law enforcement careers.
D’Haiti said the goal is not necessarily to get all participating youths to go into law enforcement careers but to learn values of leadership, communication and community service.
“Getting explorers to go into law enforcement is nice, but not required,” D’Haiti said. “We have some who have no desire to become a police officer but like community service.”
In each area of training, scenarios are presented such as in active shooter training, where explorers learn how to use their surroundings as cover while in front of a simulation screen that shows a shooter with a hostage.
D’Haiti said that the department, which has about 1,500 officers, struggles to maintain sufficient staffing and that the program helps fill the void, in addition to other recruitment efforts. He said the department is looking for more officers with community policing and community service experience. He said the number of officers joining the department has been increasing, but given the county’s level of crime and population, they ideally should have 2,000 officers.
Lesesne said that the hands-on training and community involvement were his favorite parts about being involved and that it prepared him for the police academy in Lanham, where he graduated in May.
After graduation, he went through a departmental 60-day probation period where he was accompanied by a field training officer until being released and on his own in August. Lesesne currently is stationed in District 3 in Palmer Park and is in the Bureau of Patrol.