09/08/08 — Explorers get chance to try future police skills at event

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Explorers get chance to try future police skills at event

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 8, 2008 1:39 PM

This orange cone-lined obstacle course is a bit tougher than the one people go through to get a driver's license.


News-Argus/Nick Hiltunen

Goldsboro police Explorer Post No. 209 Sgt. Justin Lewis, left, explains the details of a hostage negotiation exercise the post undertook at a national convention in Colorado this summer. Sgt. Mondo McEachern and Capt. Ian Dillard listen.

And Ian Dillard's performance on it was enough to earn him national recognition.

Dillard, captain of the Goldsboro Police Department's Explorer Post No. 209, placed third in a competition that asked aspiring young police officers to pilot emergency operations vehicles through an obstacle course.

Capt. Dillard explained the competition.

"You get in a police car, and you have a driving instructor beside you," Dillard said. "They have different courses set up with cones, you go through (them) and try to get the best time without hitting any obstacles."

But driving skills weren't the only ones being developed by this Goldsboro-area group of young men, all of whom expect to be employed as law enforcers one day.

One such skill -- hostage negotiation.

Many of the Explorers who attended the National Law Enforcement Exploring Conference at Colorado State University this summer said hostage negotiation was perhaps the most intense -- and interesting -- part of the conference.

"We enter a room where our swat team commander ... is a judge. We have our main negotiator, our intelligence guy and the note taker," said Explorer Sgt. Mondo McEachern.

The scenario is set for the as-yet inexperienced hostage negotiators -- this year's scene was a bank robbery, they said.

"You've just got to sit there and try to talk to him (the hostage taker), and get to where he can trust you, and you're almost a friend to him," Dillard said.

"He wants alcohol, he wants money, he wants a car full of gas, and you've got to do what you can to extend the time, or else he's going to kill the hostage," the Explorer post captain added.

Explorer Sgt. Justin Lewis said that without interplay between the four hostage negotiators, the scenario can get out of hand quickly.

"It was like a tag-team effort, through all of us. Everybody had a big role to play in all of this," Lewis said.

Added McEachern, "It gets sweaty in there."

There's also some uncertainty involved, Lewis and Dillard said, and because the actors are all Federal Bureau of Investigation hostage negotiatiors, "it's just about as real as it can be without it actually being true."

"It gets really hot, and it gets really muddy -- you don't know if you're doing it right or doing it wrong," Lewis said.

The F.B.I. hostage negotatiors told the team they had performed well, but had suggestions for them, as well.

"We could have talked to family members, and could have tried to come up with more stuff -- stuff that I could find in common with him, or find in common with the victim, so we could get the victim out."

Senior Explorer Brian Newsome said hostage negotiation can serve future officers well not just in hostage situations, but in more common scenarios.

"If you ever come up on a domestic violence situation, you know how to talk to them real slow. It really does help a lot on communication skills," Newsome said.

Hostage negotiation and a driving exercise weren't the only skills being honed, as a list of seminars touched on hot-button U.S. issues.

Those seminars included Internet crime and fraud, gang recognition and identification, hate crimes and terrorism, mail fraud, drug trafficking and interdiction, self-defense techniques, protecting U.S. borders and other topics.

The Colorado-based "Exploring" conference was the third national event organized by Explorer posts throughout the nation.

The seven Goldsboro-area Explorers who participated joined an estimated 5,000 other Explorers, their sponsors and other staff at Colorado State, Goldsboro Sgt. Trey Ball said.

For information about joining the Explorer program, contact Sgt. Trey Ball at 919-580-4274.