When I tell people that my dream job is to be an FBI agent, their first reaction is either, "Wow, that's so cool!" or "Oh my god! What made you choose that?"
I'm not surprised. It's the rare teenager, after all, who wants to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And I may not have made that choice had I not joined the Hercules Police Explorers Post 2111 a couple of years ago.
Police Explorers are teens and young adults who are interested in law enforcement, military or national security jobs. I first heard about the group the summer before I entered the eighth grade, when I visited its booth at the Hercules Cultural Festival. But I didn't sign up until after I heard a few alumni speak during a high school career day about their careers as police officers.
The rest is history. Now, I can't imagine my life without Police Explorers. Every Wednesday, we hold two-hour meetings where we learn about tactics and practice scenarios such as high-risk traffic stops, pedestrian stops, 5150 (involuntary psychiatric hold) and vehicle searches. In addition to tactical skills, the group has taught me that determination and motivation are crucial to success. If I don't push myself, I won't achieve my goals.
Our post also participates in an annual SWAT competition in Chandler, Ariz. The event consists of many tactical scenarios, such as vehicle assault, undercover operations and crisis negotiations. On the last night, we hold an award ceremony in which trophies are handed out. My first visit to Chandler in January was a huge success; we brought home five trophies.
During my time with the organization, I've received two promotions, the first coming in June 2011, when I went from explorer to corporal. I became a sergeant in February. In addition, I am part of the five-member honor guard.
I don't know exactly what drove me toward pursuing a law enforcement career. I do know, though, that I never want to be tied to a desk job.
I want to be able to serve either my community or country while experiencing some action. I'm an adrenaline junkie who loves to take risks.
Police Explorers has greatly influenced my views on police officers. Before joining, I had a neutral, indifferent attitude toward law enforcement. Since then, I've gained a better understanding of why officers do the things they do. Now, whenever I hear about an arrest or police brutality case, I try to find out as much information as possible before judging the involved parties.
My Explorers adviser also encourages us to discuss anything we hear in the news. What a lot of my peers and adult acquaintances fail to realize is that there is one main thing on the minds of officers: being able to make it home to their families at the end of the day while serving the people. Most of their actions are carried out in order to protect themselves and their fellow residents.
Another thing I've acquired since joining the Explorers is an addiction to law enforcement-related shows. Among the ones I watch are "Cops," "Police Women of Broward County/Cincinnati," "Dallas SWAT" and "World's Wildest Police Videos."
I also sporadically watch "Southland" and "Hawaii Five-0," but I find the non-cop aspects, such as romances and past personal problems, tedious to follow.
My time with the Police Explorers has made me realize that I want to be a part of more than a city police department. After a lot of research, I found that the FBI offers what I am looking for: large-scale law enforcement mixed with national security. The FBI also offers opportunities to travel and work with other agencies, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the CIA. I hope to join after a stint in the Air Force.
The past two and a half years as a Hercules Police Explorer have really changed my life for the better. The group has given me an outlet to learn and express many valuable qualities, such as determination, motivation and leadership. I know these skills will help me while I pursue my dream of being in the FBI.
The Life in Perspective board is made up of teens who write for the features sections. Laila Kazmi is a senior at Salesian High School in Richmond. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.