A pair of teenagers crept silently around the back of the car, guns drawn.

The youths and two partners had already, with methodic precision, forced four people from the car and placed them in handcuffs.

But this wasn’t a carjacking. It was a mock high-risk traffic stop, with false guns, conducted by the Oro Valley Police Explorers.

“That was pretty spot on,” Officer Kevin Mattocks told the group after the trial run.

Mattocks advises the team at their weekly meetings and organizes training exercises.

Law Enforcement Explorer programs provide young people the opportunity to learn firsthand about police work. Young men and women between the ages of 14 and 21 are eligible to participate.

Seasoned police officials lead various classes on the proper use of handcuffs and how to handle hostage negotiations, to name a few.

The Oro Valley team has grown in popularity, Mattocks said, from the handful of teens who attended on a regular basis last year, to about 20 now, including a few girls.

The team also gets the opportunity to help the police force at large with training by playing the roles of crime victims or bystanders.

The group recently stood in as injured students during a mock shooting at Ironwood Ridge High School.

Post members also train for regional and national competitions.

In January, they took first place in the terrorist threat category at a competition in Chandler, beating scores of other teams.

“It was a good experience,” said 19-year-old Arick Martino, who’s been with the team for five years.

For the terrorist exercise, competition grounds were set up like a water-treatment facility. Teams had to maneuver through obstacles to a water tower where a sniper and a bomb-wielding terrorist were holed up.

Using smoke grenades to hide their movements, the team moved close enough to take out the terrorists using laser guns.

“They were one of only four or five teams that survived the event,” Mattocks said.

The win surprised everyone in the group, especially because they had little training geared specifically for the terrorist threat event.

“It was awesome,” said 18-year-old Explorer Danny Sharp Jr. about the team’s first-place prize. “As soon as I heard the word ‘Oro,’ I stood up and started screaming.”

Like many of the Explorers, Sharp joined the group to see if a career in law enforcement was for him.

The Canyon Del Oro senior said that after college he wants to put on the uniform, but in his case, police work runs in the family.

Most people in Oro Valley know Sharp’s father Danny as Chief Sharp, the boss of the Oro Valley Police Department.

Sharp’s mother also wore the badge with the Tucson Police Department.

Martino also thinks he’d like to work in law enforcement, but hasn’t decided exactly where — whether in Tucson or perhaps in the armed forces.

“For the most, I’m still testing the waters,” Martino said.

For the youths who do enter law enforcement, their experiences in the Explorers likely will payoff when they enter police academies.

“These are the same things police officers do,” Mattocks explained while watching the team practice the high-risk stop. “This is one of the most technically difficult things for police officer to do.”

For more information about the Oro Valley Police Explorers, call Officer Kevin Mattocks at 229-4900.

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