Berrien County Sheriff’s Department recognized for work with Explorer program

Published 10:16 am Monday, March 11, 2019

NILES — Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey was recognized Thursday night, alongside Deputy Vanessa Williams for their dedication to teaching youth about law enforcement through the Explorer Post 602.   

The LaSalle Council Boy Scouts of America presented Bailey with a Soaring Eagle award and Williams with the Good Turn award during a ceremony at the Lake Michigan College Niles campus. Ten Explorers also took part in the service and performed the honor guard.

Bailey has been involved with the program for 19 years, serving as a sponsor while Williams has dedicated time overseeing the program. Bailey commended the work of many other officers who have committed time to helping the program grow. With this in mind, he said he accepted his award Thursday on behalf of the entire Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.

“Being a sheriff or police officer in any department is more than just enforcing the laws,” Bailey said. “You need to get involved and make a difference in your community and youth are the most important commodity.”

The Explorer program is a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America. It connects youth 14 to 20 with local police officers. Those involved get the chance to learn what it is like to have a career in law enforcement. Youth also get to participate in ride alongs with police and learn about procedures for various threats or emergencies, like accident scenes or bomb threats. The program also seeks to teach youth leadership skills. This year, the Explorer program celebrates its 100th anniversary.

In his tenure serving the program, Bailey said he has seen the local initiative inspire many children on the path to becoming a police officer.

“We have tried to grow it over the years and have more young people participate,” Bailey said. “We have been very successful with that. We have a long history of people going through our Explorer program [becoming police]. It’s a good way for our youth to also figure out, do I want to become an officer?”

Two former Explorer youth who now serve their Berrien County communities as deputies for the sheriff’s department attended Thursday to share their story. Deputies Devonte Hureskin and Christian Campbell described how they first found their passion for law enforcement when they were children in the Explorer program.

“They got up and explained to everybody what [the program] meant to them and how it helped them,” Bailey said.

For Bailey, the motivation to get involved in the program came from a desire to invest in local youth’s futures, he said.

“As the sheriff and a police officer prior to that, our communities are always as strong as the youth,” Bailey said. “If we don’t do something to help our youth become good productive, sound citizens, shame on us.”

This will be the first Soaring Eagle award that the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department has received, reminding local police of the impact their work can have on their community.

“It was very nice of them to recognize the sheriff’s office,” Bailey said. “I was very humbled about receiving it and accept it on behalf of all the men and women that work … very hard to make sure our county is safe and also work with our youth.”