In a few years they could be answering your call for help or pulling you over for a traffic violation, but for now they're teenagers learning the ins and outs of police work. Gulfport Police Officers say the Explorer Academy going on this week is a chance for them to introduce hundreds of young people to a career in law enforcement.
Some of the teenagers say they've learned lessons that will benefit them in life even if they never put on a badge. During an exercise on felony traffic stops the teens realized the questions that raced through their minds were the dangers officers face on the streets.
"It kind of makes your heart jump because there actually officers out there that actually do this, you don't know what the suspect is gonna do," Bradley Downs said.
Instructors at Gulfport's Explorer Academy say classes like street survival, hostage negotiation, and weapons training are important lessons.
"We're teaching them life skills. We're teaching them things that they need not only to be police officers, but lawyers and doctors and accountants or teachers or whatever their role is going to be in society," Officer Ben Taylor said. "We're teaching them the fundamentals that they need."
Andrew Hernandez wants to be a teacher, but this experience has given him new respect for police.
"I think it takes a lot of heart to do this and it takes a lot of courage."
The explorers say the most important lesson they learned was that without teamwork, everyone loses.
"You learn leadership, you learn how to get along with others, you learn how to work as a team, and the most thing you know is that you've got family here," Downs said.
Gulfport police say they are working with about four hundred explorers this year. The teenagers come from across the United States and Great Britain.