Catalina Amoros of Baldwin hopes to combine a career in law enforcement with her passion – caring for animals.

The 18-year-old took a step toward achieving her goal of becoming a K-9 officer as one of 166 Nassau Police Explorers in the Class of 2022. On Tuesday, she joined 122 other Explorers during a recognition ceremony at the David S. Mack Center for Training and Intelligence in Garden City. The explorers are between the ages of 14 and 20 and have participated in community service and law enforcement training at the police department.

“I’ve always wanted to work with animals,” said Amoros, whose father is a Nassau police chaplain, “and being a canine officer, you get a dog to take home and it’s your own animal. companion, but they are also your partner.”

Amoros said she will be attending Nassau Community College in the fall and eventually wants to attend John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan.

The Explorer 2022 class is smaller than previous years with 166 participants — before the pandemic, the program had about 300 members — but is more diverse than previous years.

Newsday reported last year that the Long Island police force remained predominantly white despite decades of federal oversight aimed at diversifying its ranks.

Black and Hispanic applicants are less likely to be hired by the Nassau and Suffolk Police Departments, which rejected applicants of color at rates exceeding federal standards used to uncover evidence of discrimination, the survey found. from Newsday.

“The Explorer program is a tool in the recruiting toolbox,” said Tracey Edwards, director of the Long Island NAACP. “Young people of all races and genders should have the opportunity to be explorers to learn about law enforcement, have positive experiences and start a career.”

The racial and ethnic breakdown of Explorers, a volunteer program that gives participants real-world insight into police work, is now 36% white, 36% Hispanic, 9% black, nearly 7% black. Asians and 12% Indians or others, department statistics show. A nearly equal percentage of this year’s participants are men and women, according to the statistics.

The Explorers program, which began in the 1970s and trains young people in scenarios such as domestic disputes, hostage negotiations and bomb threats, served as a recruiting tool for the department, officials said. responsible.

Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the program is “absolutely” a pipeline to hire more recruits. The program teaches trainees about discipline and the inner workings of the police, he said.

“We are always challenged on our diversity and our recruiting,” Ryder said. “If we can build a better base, we get better diversity.”

Attendees on Tuesday night received awards including the Community Service Bar, for those who completed 100 hours of community service, and the Law Enforcement Service Bar, recognizing those who have assisted in various specialized areas of law enforcement. Nassau Police such as records and data processing.

Rebecca Boykin, a 21-year-old Massapequa resident, left the Explorer program after seven years.

“I’ve really been able to grow as an individual,” said Boykin, who recently graduated from the program and earned a bachelor’s degree in security management from John Jay College.