Newport Beach Police Explorers are Excellence in Uniform

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Newport Beach Police Explorers took first place overall in this year’s CHP Explorer events.

Look out current and future criminals!

The next crop of potential cops in Newport Beach is so bright, the Police Department won’t need AI (artificial intelligence) to collar the bad guys.

There probably is no greater barometer of continued excellence than with the current group of Police Explorers under the guidance of 50-year-old Detective Mike Fletcher. Police Explorers are a volunteer group of youth ranging in age from 14 to 21, most of whom joined mainly because of their interest in law enforcement, but also as a way to satisfy their schools’ community service requirements.

“When I was 14, I was an Explorer with Newport,” Fletcher recounted of his four year involvement. However, it was a natural membership, for his father, Doug Fletcher, had been a Newport cop from 1971-2002.

“We teach the students all aspects of law enforcement and all that our department has to offer— from Patrol to Dispatch to CSI,” Fletcher shared. The impact that the program has on its Explorers is nothing short of dynamic, as shared by three 18-year-old students: Luke Martin and Riley Bogart from Newport Harbor High School, and Zoey Batchman (Detective Fletcher’s step-daughter) from Los Alamitos High School.

“Joining has been one of my best decisions. What kid my age receives training from detectives and SWAT team members or gets to drive ‘lights-and-sirens’ to calls with police officers?” asked Martin, a karate black belt, as well as a recent Valedictorian with a 4.6 GPA who’ll be starting UCLA as a sophomore this Fall. “This experience is definitely the most exciting and unique thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

Some of Martin’s favorite experiences include “having team dinners to celebrate our successes at Explorer competitions (They took first place overall in this year’s CHP Explorer events); learning weapons safety; a ride-along where the officer arrested individuals in possession of guns and drugs, and then going lights and sirens to stop a trespasser who was breaking into a motel lobby and scaring the worker inside.”

Explorers attend weekly two-hour educational sessions, but Martin said he arrives an hour early so that he can listen in at supervisors’ meetings. Additionally, he says, “I may spend anywhere from eight to 12 hours a week with other Explorers to gain community service credits. These had been monumental in my college applications.”

Although he plans to major in Business and Economics, Martin has set his sights on becoming a Newport cop upon graduation. But what about that major? Purely a foundational background, he said, that may come in handy when he becomes a detective investigating fraud and economic crimes.

All three Explorers emphasized that the whole group, no matter their ages, became their second family.

“There’s no doubt that we’re leaders,” opined Riley Bogart, Martin’s classmate and fellow Valedictorian. “I don’t know where I’d be today without the Explorers…the connections I’ve made and the people I’ve met have influenced my life in so many positive ways that it’ll be very difficult to leave in September for college.”

Explorers offer many reasons why they joined such a group, but Bogart’s arguably is the most compelling: In 2022, alone at home with her twin brother, who was Rip Van Winkling in his own bedroom, Bogart heard a foreign noise in the hallway. Opening the door, she found herself face-to-face with a deranged intruder, “probably high on meth,” she recounted.

Somehow, during the horrifying eternity, she convinced him to leave. Panicked, she called friends and her parents, until one ordered her to dial 911. It was another three-minute eternity until the police arrived. “I still remember the policemen’s names, Detective Stucken and Officer De Julio, who arrived on scene,” she said.

“It was not so much the break-in that affected me at the time, but the shock and panic that came after,” she said, explaining that “every dream thereafter became a nightmare of ‘what ifs.” It took months of subsequent therapy afterward to convince herself that “home was a safe place capable of protecting me.”

Her trauma “gave me a new pathway and passion in life: an involvement in some way with law enforcement,” Bogart shared. She joined the Police Explorer program. Asked what would be her favorite experience, she enthused, “The entire program has been my favorite — the ride-alongs, the meetings, the camaraderie, and maybe mostly the competitions” against other Explorer programs.

Bogart begins her Freshmen year at UC Santa Barbara this September, her academic destination Clinical Psychology. Although she dreams of owning her own practice, she hopes to offer her skills as a Crisis Negotiator when called. After all, far more than most ever will, she understands crime-induced trauma.

Growing up with a police officer step-dad (Detective Fletcher), youngster Zoey Bachman naturally wanted to become, in her words, “a dolphin trainer.” Then a teacher. Then between the ages of 10 and 14, a police Dispatcher. When she became a teenager, Fletcher suggested that she and her mom visit the Police Explorers’ Academy at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. From that brief exposure, Bachman knew her future lay in law enforcement.

At age 16, Bachman joined the Explorers. “This program has been very important to me. It has taught me about myself; it has pushed me out of my comfort zone; it has given me confidence to run scenarios, to lead. I have done things that I never thought I could do — like finishing the Police Explorers Academy,” she summarized. Detective Fletcher explained that the Academy is a cross between school and bootcamp — definitely not easy an easy program from which to graduate. After high school next year, Bachman has aimed her sights on a degree in Criminal Justice from Cal State Fullerton.

A dance team member at high school, she claims she can’t run but she can move, a definite skill if one must pirouette out of harm’s way.

Currently, six Newport Beach officers are Explorer grads, while many others have joined police departments around the country. The son of a former Newport lieutenant currently is well along in training at the police academy en route to joining Newport. Another has joined the Marine Corps with intentions to be selected for the elite Embassy protection unit. Career advancement opportunities remain unlimited for those with drive, Fletcher said.

Two more success stories: Recently retired Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis is a case in point: He was an Explorer with the Westminster PD before becoming an 18-year-old cadet at Newport, ultimately completing his 31-year career in Newport at the top spot.

Current Port of Los Angeles Police Chief and former Costa Mesa Police Chief Tom Gazsi started his career as a Newport Beach PD Explorer, leaving the department as a captain in 2011.

To investigate the police Explorer program, all future chiefs can talk to their School Resource Officers, or go to the PD website; or communicate via email to [email protected].

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