Prescott officer passes on his passion for public safety to young adults
Prescott police officer Tom Koen was recognized for his commitment to teaching the next generation of peace officers as he received the 2017 Wisconsin Law Enforcement Explorer Advisor of the Year award.
Koen said he has been with the Prescott Police Department full time since 2015, but has previous law enforcement and emergency medical service experience.
"My experience in law enforcement has spanned over 10 years, 16 years when you include my EMS experience," Koen said.
Early on Koen decided he wanted to be in public safety and was first introduced to wilderness search and rescue through scouting. Koen continued learning about public safety and joined Ramsey County Emergency Services when he was 17. During this time he volunteered, providing emergency communication and logistical support.
"My interest continued to grow when I was given the opportunity to attend Century College in my senior year of high school," Koen said. "I graduated as a nationally registered EMT and began my paid public service career. I continued to attend college while working as an EMT, but thought there was a way for me to help more people and law enforcement was the next logical progression."
His early passion for a public safety career drove Koen's decision to help prepare future leaders in this area.
"I volunteered to take on the Explorer Program when I started full time with Prescott PD in 2015," Koen said. "Scouting and the Venture program had afforded me a plethora of valuable experiences as a youth, so it only made sense to be part of an organization that helps young men and women become productive members of society and help train the next generation of public safety professionals."
Koen said the Explorer Program is run through the Boy Scouts of America. It is open to young adults ages 16-21 and is meant to introduce participants to a variety of different careers. The law enforcement program is meant for young adults interested in public safety careers and can help them prepare for a future career.
"We help young people develop leadership skills, teach them the basics of constitutional and criminal law, provide explorers with introductory law enforcement training and allow them to compete with other posts, help with community events and ride along on patrol," Koen said. "Explorers are also eligible for scholarships and begin to develop a reputation and network with various public safety agencies and officials."
In addition to gaining experience in law enforcement, Koen said the Prescott post offers participants a wide range of public safety opportunities.
"We have developed the Prescott Post to have a law enforcement focus, but conduct training using public safety approach to address the growing emergence of multi-disciplinary emergency services agencies," Koen said. "Our explorers have the opportunity to learn about law enforcement, criminal justice but also gain exposure to EMS and hopefully the fire services as well."
Working with the Explorer Program, has helped Koen gain perspective from young adults.
"Being a part of the Explorer Program has helped me see the world from a different perspective," Koen said. "It is amazing to see the thought process of young adults as I teach the curriculum and watch the Explorers work through various problems or scenarios they may face in their careers or personal lives."
Through his teaching, Koen has seen a benefit to the rest of his duties at the police department.
"Explorers are excellent teachers and I have probably learned more teaching young adults than they learned from my courses of instruction," Koen said. "The Explorer program has made me a better instructor and field training officer by helping me learn how to deliver instruction to a multigenerational audience, practice patience and borrowing of fresh ideas."
Koen said he would not have been able to win the 2017 Wisconsin Law Enforcement Explorer Advisor of the Year if it hadn't been for the hard work and dedication of the Explorers.
"The proudest moment for me was when Chief Funk read highlights from the nomination letter highlighting all the hard work of our Explorers as they ran with projects I had asked them to complete," Koen said. "After all, the (the Explorers) made my nomination possible through their hard work through the past year. They answered the call for not only the funeral of the late Chief Krutke, but also planning the 2017 National Night Out."