By Dan Andrews

As Chief Rausch handed the Explorer of the Year award to Hayden Marshall on April 22, 2016, he smiled, which was significant because it was the first time he had smiled in days. Before the awards ceremony an impromptu press conference outside the dining hall had taken place with media pressing for answers involving a senseless gang-related shooting. However, this moment was not about everything that is wrong with our youth. Instead, this was a moment where a Chief could beam with pride at the hard work and dedication of Explorer Marshall, who had donated over 334 hours to the Knoxville Police Department and the community.

“I think the most important thing is it teaches kids to come together from all sorts of different backgrounds, races, genders, and creeds. We come together and form our own type of brotherhood. We have each other’s backs. We learn what to do and what not to do. We train with each other, we learn and become really good friends.”

Hayden Marshall

High School Senior, L&N Stem Academy, 2015 KPD Explorer of the Year.

The Knoxville Police Department Explorer Post has very strict rules and regulations. The young members are held to the same moral code as sworn officers. In addition to the moral code, they also must maintain good grades in school and have a good attendance record for training and meetings.

In addition to maintaining the professional demeanor and attitude, young men and women, aged 14-20, must maintain an academic average of 2.0 or higher, be physically fit and have no criminal record. The goal of the program is to prepare individuals to become police officers through its training, education and experience.

The Explorer Unit is an amazing opportunity to allow young individuals to see a side of Knoxville that few people have the opportunity to see. From police ride-alongs at night checking empty back alleys, to being on the field game day performing crowd control, from helping the marine unit on our wide open lakes, to directing traffic when roads become overly congested, these young individuals make a profound difference in our community.

But above all, with all the negative headlines that we have seen involving our youth, these individuals give us all something to smile about and be proud of.