Explorers are given the opportunity to participate in a week-long law enforcement academy, as well as weekend events held over the course of the year. They gain exposure to various criminal justice careers while experiencing a positive interaction with law enforcement professionals.
This experience is taken seriously by both OPD and the participants. Candidates must meet rigid standards in order to qualify for participation in the program which include the following: Applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 20 and if enrolled in high school, maintain at least an overall “C” grade average; If out of high school, they must have a high school diploma or a GED; Applicants must have the ability to commit to a minimum of 10 hours per month, or 30 hours per quarter of service, which includes meetings, ride-a-longs, office work, training, and special events.
The Explorer program has five areas of emphasis: career opportunities; life skills which develop positive social interactions and physical and mental fitness; citizenship, encourage the desire to help others through community service; character education, learning to make ethical choices and decisions; and leadership experience.
Charles Dabney was born and raised in Oceanside. He attended Garrison Elementary, Lincoln Middle School and graduated Oceanside High School in 2016.
Back in 2007 when he was ten years old, he participated in “Shop with a Cop”. Charles remembers the excitement of being part of the police motorcade from Oceanside to Sea World down in San Diego, the flashing lights and sirens. The convoy included law enforcement departments around the county and included members of the DEA, FBI, San Diego County Sheriff Department, complete with helicopters. Charles was able to select gifts with a police officer that was assigned to be with him. It was an experience he has never forgotten.
After Chandra Faist, a high school teacher with the Academy of Justice, spoke to him about the Oceanside Police Explorer Program, Charles joined the program in 2013. His mother was at first worried about Charles’ direction toward law enforcement as a career, but she could see his commitment, interest and his investment of time. Charles said she was largely put at ease after meeting his mentors and the family atmosphere among the staff and explorers.
Dabney was in the Explorer program for three years and was the youngest to obtain the highest rank of Sergeant. Having obtained “hands-on” experience and awareness of the criminal justice system, helped him to envision a career in law enforcement. Charles knew he didn’t want to just sit behind a desk; that he wanted to be out in the community. He was inspired about the opportunity for a daily new adventure, meeting new people and making a difference.
After completing the Explorer’s Program in 2016, Charles became a Police Cadet, working the front desk as a Community Services Officer. He also worked with officers in the Property and Evidence facility which included helping to transport evidence to the crime lab.
Detective Ryan Malone and other OPD staff saw his work ethic, recognized his following through on tasks, his commitment and their investment in Charles paid off. In June 2019 he entered the Police Academy, graduating in November of that year.
Today Charles patrols the downtown area, which includes the beach and pier. He feels that because he grew up here that he can relate to his peers and can communicate with his generation, who may not always have a favorable view of law enforcement. He said that he and his fellow officers see that same 95% people on a regular basis and the other 5% are “good people who do dumb stuff.” Regardless, Charles wants to give the public a different point view and share his perspective, all the while maintaining a respectful relationship.