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Teens Experience Law Enforcement as Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Explorers

August 7, 2013
Explorer Caroline Nolan

Explorer Caroline Nolan

OneDublin.org had a chance to speak with Dublin High School incoming senior and Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Caroline Nolan during this week’s 30th Annual National Night Out event. Ms. Nolan was also elected the Dublin High Senior Class Vice President for the Class of 2014. The Explorers program provides students ages 15-21 the opportunity to get experience in law enforcement including working alongside police officers at public events. Ms. Nolan arrived at a Dublin National Night Out court party riding with a Dublin Police Officer – and at first glance one could easily mistake her for a police officer.

OneDublin.org: How did you find out about the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Program and what’s it all about?

Caroline Nolan: “I had a friend on the cross country team who was really involved in the program. She knew I was interested in police work and brought me to an Explorers meeting one day, I fell in love with the program and I’ve been part of it ever since.

“As Explorers, we get opportunities to support events, like National Night Out or the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, and meet regularly as a group. We also get to ride along with police officers once a month and anything we hear during calls is confidential and can’t be discussed with other people. We also have to maintain good grades to remain in the program.

“We’re constantly recruiting kids to join Explorers, from age 15 up to 21. We meet every two weeks for 2 hours and support events throughout the year.”

OneDublin.org: How do you augment the police officers at events?

Nolan: “We act as the eyes and the ears of the police force and we’ll have a radio that’s connected to dispatch. We’ll hear everything that dispatch is communicating to the regular officers, so if we see anything that is suspicious we can call it in and let them know what we see, and then an officer will respond to the scene and check it out. We don’t approach people at all, but if there are missing kids we’ll get a description of the child and then aid in the search.”

OneDublin.org: How often are you mistaken for a police officer?

Nolan: “I’ve actually had family friends tell my parents there is a police officer for Dublin that looks exactly like Caroline, and my parents will respond ‘no, that actually is Caroline!'”

OneDublin.org: Is there potentially some risk with people thinking you are a police officer?

Nolan: “While it hasn’t happened to me, I know that sometimes people will mistake Explorers for an officer and expect us to help them, and we’ll explain who we are and what we do, and then call an officer to help. That said, we’re never in our Explorer uniforms unless an officer is present to help us. I don’t go strolling around Dublin in this uniform! I can only be in uniform at an event; going to and from an event I have to wear a cover jacket so that no one mistakes me for a police officer.”

OneDublin.org: What are your plans after high school and how has this program influenced your next steps?

Nolan: “I want to major in criminology, which is the study of the criminal mind, why people commit crime; I’m planning to pursue a four year degree and may go on to get a masters or even a doctorate. I hope to work as a detective one day and help solve crimes against children.

“While with most police departments you are not required to have a four year degree, with all the applicants coming in having a four year degree gives you an advantage. Also, if you want to become a lieutenant or sergeant you need a four year degree.

“In Explorers, I’ve learned that with most police departments there is a four year rotation so you’ll work on patrol for four years, then they’ll put you into narcotics or undercover, and then you can be promoted to detective. You’ll circulate through different roles.”

OneDublin.org: What sparked your interest in criminology and how has Dublin High School helped develop that interest?

Nolan: “I don’t have any family members involved in law enforcement at all. When I was little I wanted to be a spy. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

“I’m in the AVID program at Dublin High School, which is the college prep class you take all four years. AVID really helps you decide on a major, with research and college presentations I’ve been attending since I was a freshman. We had colleges come in like Sacramento State University which is known for its criminal justice program, and that really reinforced my interest, or other schools come in and talk about accounting which didn’t interest me. Knowing what I didn’t want to do helped me figure out what I want to do.”

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