Richardson Police Volunteer Earns Real Hero Award

Nidhi Gotgi, staff writer of The Mercury — the student newspaper at UT Dallas — wrote this article.

on right, Joshua Gonzalez

As a member of the Richardson Police Explorer Post 761, Joshua Gonzalez has gained skills for his goal of becoming a police officer. (Photo by The Mercury)

UT Dallas student Joshua Gonzalez recently received the Richardson Real Hero Award for his volunteer work with a youth program operated by the Richardson Police Department.

Gonzalez, a psychology and criminology junior, has served 2,200 hours with the Richardson Police Explorer Post 761 since 2011. The organization offers experiential learning for teens and young adults ages 14 to 21 through hands-on activities that promote growth and development.  

Gonzalez said he joined Explorers to learn about law enforcement.

“I’ve always wanted to be a police officer since I can remember,” he said. “It’s kind of like one of those phases kids go through, but mine never went away. I observed an Explorers meeting one day and was hooked.”

The Police Department sponsors the Explorers, and police employees serve as advisors to the post. Explorers are required to complete eight hours of community service or service to the Police Department per month and attend weekly meetings. Gonzalez easily surpassed the minimum requirement, logging 16 to 25 hours of service each month.

Explorers have the option of serving in areas such as communications, crime scene investigation workshops or on-scene observation and records. They also provide extra security in community events.

Through the program, Gonzalez interacts with police officers in briefings before these events, rides along with them on duty twice a month and observes officers on call. All of this is preparation for his goal of becoming a police officer.

“You get a foot in the door, and the Police Department wants to hire someone that they trust,” Gonzalez said. “There’s no other career that I can even imagine that I would enjoy more than being a police officer.”

I’ve always wanted to be a police officer since I can remember. It’s kind of like one of those phases kids go through, but mine never went away. I observed an Explorers meeting one day and was hooked.

UT Dallas student
Joshua Gonzalez,
recipient of the Richardson
Real Hero Award

Gonzalez said he wasn’t very social or talkative before joining Explorers. But now he is more outgoing and enjoys public speaking, he said.

He quickly rose to leadership positions within the program, becoming a sergeant in December 2011, a lieutenant a year later and captain, the highest rank within the program, in December 2013.

“Josh’s leadership skills are phenomenal,” said Bill Ziegler, Richardson Real Heroes Award committee chair. “I’ve watched him with his peers, and their relationship is based on respect. It’s because they respect the leadership that they come back.”

As Explorers captain, Gonzalez oversees 20 members, completes paperwork, starts weekly meetings, keeps track of attendance, gathers volunteers and makes sure everyone has transportation to service events. He also helps promote the program and recruit future members at career fairs.

He participates in Police Department’s annual presentation about the program for interested candidates and sits in with police officers when they interview applicants.

“I have pretty good eyes for recognizing who has got skills, talent, drive and motivation,” said Capt. Coby Pewitt from the special operations division and an Explorers advisor. “Josh has been an all-star.”

Pewitt attributes the success of the program to Gonzalez’s leadership.

“We’ve been very happy with his performance, and we nominated him for the Real Heroes Award,” Pewitt said. “We were excited when the committee acknowledged him, so it was a great day for us. All our police advisors and Explorers got dressed up and packed the house for him.”

Ziegler has also volunteered with the Police Department and is familiar with the Explorers program. He said that the committee doesn’t just consider the number of hours worked but also the level of commitment of nominated individuals.

Gonzalez dedicated numerous hours while still juggling the responsibilities of a high school student, which emphasized his commitment to the program.

Gonzalez’s next task is working with Pewitt on organizing a six-week leadership academy to create future leaders.

“I’m planning for Josh’s succession,” Pewitt said. “It’s for people interested in taking that next step of leadership. We’ll see if we can make another Josh Gonzalez.”

To become an officer, Gonzalez must go through certification, attend the police academy and complete field training. Explorers has made him familiar with the requirements and nuances of professionalism, bravery and customer service in law enforcement, Pewitt said.

“This program is by far a stepping stone in understanding the roles and personnel that are part of the job,” Pewitt said. “Josh will be a rock star at the police academy, and I have high expectations that he’ll come work for us.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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