Interested in law enforcement? Then the Explorers program may be right for you

By Sabrina Otero
Times-News correspondent

Members of the Explorer Program pose for a recent photo / Photo submitted

Recently, Jennifer Matherly, Burlington Detective and Explorer Post Head advisor, offered Teens and Twenties an inside look at “The Burlington Police Explorers Program,” which teaches “many different aspects of the role of law enforcement, including handcuffing techniques, defensive tactics, criminal law, traffic stops, crime scene processing and basic life saving procedures.” Here are some of the highlights:

TEENS & TWENTIES: Could you describe the origins and purpose of the Explorers Program?

MATHERLY: “The Burlington Police Explorers Program was created in 1970 … and the idea was brought to the Burlington Police Department by the Boy Scouts of America. It was implemented by the Chief of the Burlington Police Department at the time, who was Chief Alfred Garner. Though the post is sponsored by the Burlington Police Department, it is and always has been self-financed. The department supports the post and officers devote many hours of their personal time to ensure the post has been continuously chartered since 1970.

The purpose of the Explorer Post is provide experiences that help young people mature and to prepare them to become responsible and caring adults. Explorers are ready to investigate the meaning of independence in their personal relationships and communities. Explorer programs are based on five areas of emphasis: career opportunities, life skills, citizenship, character education and leadership experience. This program has provided the Burlington Police Department and other enforcement agencies with many fine officers. This is one of the most successful Explorer Post in North Carolina!  It is our mission to make the learning experience as realistic as possible.

TEENS & TWENTIES: Could you describe your involvement in it? 

MATHERLY: I am a graduate of the Burlington Police Department Explorer Program and am now a Detective within the Police Department. Since becoming hired as a Police Officer, I have continued to give back to the post by becoming an Explorer Post Advisor.

Now I am the Explorer Post Head advisor. It is my responsibility to guide the post in all activities to ensure that each member is achieving the posts purpose and their individual best. My involvement includes presiding over post meetings, which are held twice a month at the Burlington Police Department, all post fundraisers, and community service events.

TEENS & TWENTIES: What can members hope to gain?

MATHERLY: Through our numerous activities such as our ride-a-long program and Firearms Competition, Explorer Post members can expect to gain career opportunities, life skills, citizenship, character education, and leadership experience.”

TEENS & TWENTIES: What are some challenges and goals involved in being an explorer?

MATHERLY: The biggest challenge involved with being an Explorer is and always has been the fundraising. Because we are self-financed, all our activities are a direct result of the hard work put into each and every opportunity to raise the post funds.

TEENS & TWENTIES: What is the age range?

MATHERLY: The Explorer Post currently has membership opportunities available and is open to boys and girls between the ages of 14 to 20 who have completed the eighth-grade, maintain a C average or better in their classes and whom do not have any criminal history other than minor traffic offenses.

TEENS & TWENTIES: How does one prepare to be an Explorer?

MATHERLY: Preparation to become an Explorer is simple; all you have to do is attend our “Open House” meeting where we give out general information about the post and a membership application. Once your application is approved, you will be notified and then will able to begin attending post meetings, which are held the first and third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m.

TEENS & TWENTIES: What events and activities do members participate in?

MATHERLY: Explorers get to do a number of activities beginning at their monthly meetings and sometimes continuing into weekend events such as vacation Beach Trips or National Competitions in other states. Here at home, each member is allowed to purchase a dress uniform and then participate in the post’s ride-a-long program, where explorers get to ride with an on-duty police officer and observe the daily aspects of street level law enforcement. In addition to this, we have a yearly firearms competition. Members get to go to the range with officers and compete for trophies in handgun and shotgun competition.

We also encourage our explorers to maintain a fitness level adequate to perform the duties of law enforcement through monthly physical training sessions at the Police Department. Most recently, the Explorer Post members got to participate in the City ofBurlington Holiday Paradeheld this past weekend.

TEENS & TWENTIES: Which aspect of the program are you most proud of and why?

MATHERLY: I am proud of the Explorer Post Program as a whole not because of the selfless time put into each and every community service event the post partakes in, or because of the countless hours and hard work put into the Post funding by each and every member, but because the success rate of the program is astounding. Approximately 15 percent of the Burlington Police Department officers alone were once Explorers. Many explorers have gone to other agencies and some have even become chiefs of departments. I’m very proud to say that most all of our members go into a career in law enforcement or the military.

TEENS & TWENTIES: What advice would you give to aspiring Explorers?

MATHERLY: The advice I would give to aspiring Explorers is bring an open mind and to attend our next open house meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 17, 2012,  to discover if the Explorer Post is a right fit for you.”

For more information about this great program, please email Detective Jennifer Matherly at

 Sabrina Otero is a freshman at Western Alamance High School and a Teens & Twenties writer.

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