Bradenton Police Explorers take crash course in law enforcement

Billy Bob Jones got seven tickets.

“I don’t want this!” he cried to four Bradenton Police Explorers.

Jones doesn’t exist. Neither does Leo J. Goodlookin, whose blue Dodge Durango Jones “crashed” into, now flipped over on its top.

Jones and Goodlookin, played by Bradenton school resource officer KB Magown II and Sgt. Leo Donnely, occasionally broke character Wednesday to explain a traffic citation simulation to seven teenagers in the Bradenton Police Explorers Post No. 1004.

For about 15 years, the year-round program teaches students between the ages of 14 and 20 what it’s like to be in law enforcement. They also learn citizenship, leadership and communication skills.

“These kids are here because they want to be here,” said program coordinator Kimberly Camacho. Participants typically come from areas where law enforcement is not seen in a positive light, she added.

“It’s so neat to see them change and grow,” she said. “By the time they leave, they know how to talk to people and they kind of know who they are.”

This week, the explorers are in training camp covering gang identification and learning how to diagram car crashes. Later in the week, they’ll have marine training and meet with Judge Hunter Carroll to learn about the courthouse.

Explorers who leave the program go on to the military, the U.S. Marines, the FBI Training Academy and even become police officers in Bradenton such as Ronald Peterson and Dalia Santana.

Incoming Southeast High School sophomore Darron Mayes has been in the program a year. His mother was a corrections officer and the 14-year-old Mayes also wants to be a corrections officer.

“I wanted to follow her footsteps,” he said.

Advanced Towing donated two vehicles slotted for the junkyard for the simulation, and manager Rick Harvey demonstrated how he would tow cars from a crash site.

“I think it’s great,” Harvey said. “That way they can get hands-on.”

Hannah Morse: 941-745-7055, @mannahhorse