Crime & Justice

LAPD's Explorers program to sever ties with Boy Scouts


The Los Angeles Police Department's Explorers youth program will mark the end of its nearly 50-year relationship with the Boys Scouts of America on New Year's Day.

LAPD Deputy Chief Earl Paysinger said the department will run the youth program under a different name independent of the Boy Scouts, with the program being funded in part through donations.

The Boy Scouts started the Explorers program in 1949 as a career-oriented program for boys. The LAPD began participating in 1962. Since 1998, the LAPD has been running the Explorers program while Learning for Life — an organization created by the Boy Scouts — provided insurance coverage to
participants.

But the Police Commission voted last month to sever ties with Learning for Life, saying the Boys Scouts' policy of barring gays, atheists and agnostics from being troop leaders violates the city's non-discrimination policies.

"It's bittersweet in the sense that the Boy Scouts or Learning for Life have been part of this for a long time, but the LAPD is committed to a better program and we can do that without having discrimination,'' said Police Commissioner Alan Skobin.

Police Commissioner Robert Saltzman, who is openly gay, said that since he cannot support the Boy Scouts, he has invested a lot of time to ensure the new youth program is "as good or better than the program it replaces.''

LAPD's Explorer program provides training to youths 14-20 who are interested in law enforcement careers. About 1,000 Explorers are assigned to the 20 police stations around the city.

They help officers with searches for evidence and provide crowd control at special events. They also provide tours of police stations, assist with clerical work and participate in educational camping trips.

The Boy Scouts' policy of banning gays from being troop leaders faced legal challenges in the 1990s. However, the Supreme Court ruled the Boy Scouts had the right to decide who can join its ranks.

The Boy Scouts had argued that accepting gays would violate its constitutional right to freedom of association and free speech.