Commerce Police Sgt. Marcus Cantera administers a phonetic alphabet quiz to the Commerce Police Explorers class on Tuesday. The quiz tests the explorer’s knowledge of the special alphabet used when designating certain letters, such as on license plates, over the radio. The explorers meet every week year-round to learn what it takes to be a law enforcement officer.

The Commerce Police Explorer program took home first-place honors at a pair of competitions in the last month, and continue to prepare teenagers for a career in law enforcement.

Commerce explorers recently competed at explorer competitions in Irving and Houston. In these competitions, teams of four participate in various scenarios to see how they respond and utilize their law enforcement training.

At the Irving competition, the Commerce Explorers placed first in the bomb threat scenario and second in the DWI investigation scenario. In Houston, the team won the active shooter scenario and explorer Laurencio Marquez placed first in the physical agility competition.

The wins are significant, as Commerce was going up against programs from much larger police departments across the state. Commerce PD Sgt. Marcus Cantera, who administers the program, says that slaying those giants is special for the explorers.

“I think the biggest complement is to have officers from other departments turn and go ‘Where exactly is Commerce?’” Cantera said. “These kids are putting Commerce on the map.”

Cantera, who is a 15 year veteran of CPD, says that this fairly young group excels at valuable traits such as communication and strategic movement, and that comes from the intense training they receive.

“They get a lot of the same training our rookie officers get,” Cantera said. “It really gives them a leg up in their career.”

The results are evident, as one explorer, Elizabeth Singleton, already works for CPD as a dispatcher. She says that performing well at competitions reaffirms that what they are learning pays off.

“It really validates what we do and shows us we are on the right track,” Singleton said.

Singleton adds that the explorer program also helped “push her out of her comfort zone” and make her a more open, sociable person.

Abigail Parra, another explorer, also wants to pursue a law enforcement career, and thinks she is getting a good jump start.

“Being in the program shows you how real officers respond to real situations,” Parra said. “It gives you an inside look at why they do things the way they do.”

Most importantly, Sgt. Cantera says that the explorer program creates a familial bond that is crucial to the profession.

“In the explorers, just like in regular police work, we are a family,” Cantera said. “In law enforcement you often spend more time on the job than with your family at home. Seeing the kids succeed definitely gives me the feeling of a proud parent.”