HARLINGEN — “Driver, put your hands on the back of your head. Do it now.”
The darkness intensified the fear as Trisha Kribbs and her partner took down two robbery suspects. They’d spotted the red truck after an APB (All Points Bulletin) described the two men from Florida.
An APB is an alert released by radio to law enforcement detailing the crime along with a description of the height, weight and other details of the suspects.
It also tells what they were wearing and where they might be heading.
Trisha, a junior at Harlingen High School, gripped the orange practice weapon. She aimed it smartly at the two young men who’d agreed to serve as the suspects in the scenario.
One of them had silently complied with her bold instructions, having opened the door on the outside and exiting the vehicle.
“Driver, get on your knees,” said Trisha, 16, a member of Harlingen Police Explorers Post #3077.
She and about 25 students between the ages of 14 and 21 had gathered behind the Harlingen Police Department to act out the scenario, one of many they perform regularly.
Police Explorers is a leadership program which teaches law enforcement skills to aspiring officers. Explorers also engage in community service and participate in competitions.
Trisha, who plans to join the Marine Corps after high school, has enjoyed participating in a variety of scenarios, including an active shooter in a dark house.
“This is an experience kids don’t usually get a chance to do,” Trisha said. “We get to show our skills.”
Harlingen Police Commander Alfredo Alvear teaches those skills again and again. In his capacity as advisor to the troop, he tasks many of the operations to senior members.
Explorers are part of the Boy Scouts of America, along with Venturing and other programs. Explorers are for students aged 14 through 21. Like any organization, he said, the troop has a president, a vice president, secretary and other positions. They also have ranks.
“We have our lieutenants, and then we have our sergeants, and I’ll have the captain of the program,” Alvear said. “What they do is, they decide what they are going to teach.”
This “what they are going to teach” might entail a broad range of procedures such as arrest and search, accident investigation, bomb search, burglary in progress and domestic disturbance.
Wednesday night before heading outside, older explorers talked about approaching a house where suspicious activity had been reported.
“When you knock on the door, they will shoot through the door,” said one explorer. “Stand to the side of the door.”
“Look in the window,” he said.
Now Makaila Amitrani and Jacobi Ortiz, both 14, practiced a domestic disturbance scenario.
“We feel you are the aggressor in the situation,” Makaila said as she cuffed Jacobi’s hands behind his back. The high-pitched clicking of metal heightened the cold reality of restraint. That reality wasn’t lost on the two Vela Middle School eighth graders.
“You’re helpless,” Jacobi said. “You have to comply.”
Cuffs off, he added, “It’s been really helpful. I have learned a lot.”
Makaila was also learning a great deal.
“It teaches you people skills and how to communicate in general,” she said.
She also appreciated the opportunities to perform community service such as keeping a presence at the upcoming livestock show.
Back outside, Trisha and her partner Angel Barrientos, 16, used their knowledge of body language to handle some tense moments while ordering the two robbery suspects to exit the car.
“Passenger, open the door from the outside,” ordered Angel, a junior at Early College High School.
He and Stephen Loera, 18, and president of the Harlingen Police Explorers, moved cautiously but quickly toward the other suspect, weapons drawn, stern authority on their faces.
Exploring is a program of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s based on a unique and dynamic relationship between youth and the organizations in their communities.
Explorer programs are divided into 12 clusters:
– Arts and Humanities
– Engineering and Technology
– Fire and EMS
– Health Care
– Law and Government
– Law Enforcement
– Skilled Trades
– Social Services
*Police Explorers fall under Law Enforcement.
– Arrest and search
– Accident investigation
– Bomb search
– Burglary in progress
– Hostage negotiations
– Domestic disturbance
– Officer down
– Active shooter