For only the second time in the 28-year history of the Lindenhurst Police Explorer Post 2008, an Explorer has received a national award.
Warren Township High School alumnus Kyle Proper, 20, earned a fourth place trophy in police bicycle patrol and operation at the 2012 National Police Explorers Conference in Fort Collins, Colo., last month.
"It wasn't for me," Proper said of the award. "I was proud of my whole post -- I was glad that we all had something to take back and be proud of."
Seven post members competed at the conference with 2,500 other Explorers from across the country and Puerto Rico in 12 team events and five individual events.
Only fractions of a second separated Proper's winning time from those of the other top three winners. The event required competitors to navigate patrol bikes through simulated hazards of a typical urban environment.
"This is the Olympics for Explorer law enforcement," said Officer Eric Gugel, who is head adviser at the Lindenhurst post. "You're dealing with the best of the best."
This wasn't the first time Proper had excelled in bicycle policing. He had also competed on a state level last year.
"When I had done pretty well on the bike course, we had talked about putting me on the bicycle for Lindenfest (a community festival in Lindenhurst) ... so I was glad I did well and kind of proved myself at nationals," Proper said.
Gugel said Proper's historic win for Post 2008 brought him to tears, especially given that some posts have two officers instructing courses for up to 40 hours a week. The Lindenhurst Explorers meet for only two hours a week.
"When you're an individual put up against 250 other posts out there, winning -- that's just huge. I couldn't be more proud of him and the work he's put in," Gugel said.
Proper, who currently lives in unincorporated Lake County near Lake Villa, aspires to be a police officer and said he will spend one more year at the post as an Explorer and begin applying in a few months for jobs at police departments.
His accomplishment, Gugel said, is reflective of the progress the post is making.
"It shows the development that this program is going through, that we have a good pool of kids to bring in to the program and as long as we can educate them and motivate them, they will take the Explorer post to the next level," he said.
The Lindenhurst Police Explorer Post is open to anyone between the ages of 14 and 21 who has an interest in law enforcement. The class meets every Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, contact Gugel at (847) 356-5400.