Members of the Montgomery County Police Explorers Post 1986 are used to seeing how members of the Gaithersburg Police Department keep the peace in the land of Stars and Stripes. During one upcoming week in June, they will get to see how officers defending the Union Jack work together.
Four explorers and four program advisors will be heading to England from June 8 to 15. “We started an exchange program with an explorer cadet program over in London,” said George Stephens, program senior advisor. “We brought them here last year, so this year we are going to take our kids over there to be a part of the queen’s celebration.” The post will be visiting the cadet program for the Metropolitan Police called Volunteer Police Cadets.
England’s Queen Elizabeth officially turned 90 on April 21, but her official birthday celebration is set to take place the weekend of June 10 to 12. The itinerary is still being finalized but the explorers know they will be involved with the “Trooping the Colours” event at Buckingham Palace, the queen’s official residence, and a parade at the police training school.
Last year was the first for the exchange program. Stephens made contact with one of the leaders of the London program and “just made it happen.” The London program brought over 12 cadets and four advisors during the United States observance of National Police Week, which occurs annually in mid-May.
Group members have been busy fundraising to pay for this trip and another one to a national Explorer post competition this summer in Flagstaff, Arizona. There will be 16 post members attending along with six advisors. “Between the two trips, it will cost us about $40,000,” Stephens said. They have a GoFundMe page and have done numerous events including silent auctions, selling goods and restaurant events where a portion of the profits benefits the group.
Stephens is “looking forward to seeing my new friends that we made last year ‘cause we made some really good friends. I am just looking forward to seeing them and seeing how their post interacts on their turf. When you come over here, you have to act different. They were great, but I want to see how they run things.”
The trip to London will be a good experience for the participants because it will get them out of their comfort zone, said Gaithersburg Police Department Officer Dan Lane, a senior advisor for the program. “It gives them (a chance to) experience a whole other way of life. Here, they see our police officers. We are armed. We have a duty belt full of different tools and resources available to us. You go across there and you have to learn your verbal judo—learning how to talk to people and actually engage them with conversation, assess the situation without having a duty belt of different tools. It puts them in that perspective of ‘OK. It’s me and another person.’ (They will) see how different it is there. They don’t carry guns for police officers over there. It’s a different way of life completely versus what we have here. A lot of these (explorers) haven’t been out of this country to see how other cultures interact with each other.”