Hundreds of people paid $10 to attend the first annual menudo cook-off between 12 rival restaurants, raising $5,400 at a community benefit organized by the Santa Barbara Police Department to help fund its recently revitalized teen Explorer Program. Presiding over the event — held 3/10 at Franklin Elementary School — was Police Chief Cam Sanchez. A panel of judges gave Taquería El Bajio top honors. The festival is part of a concerted community goodwill campaign engineered by the police department — akin to the “Coffee with a Cop” program now underway — but this one, like the Explorer Program itself, is designed to establish greater inroads with the city’s Latino community. Currently, 22 Santa Barbarans between the ages of 14 and 20 are enrolled in the Explorer Program, which is designed to both train and encourage teens to pursue careers in law enforcement. Of the 22 enrolled, 18 are Latino, two Caucasian, one Asian, and one Middle Eastern. Nine are female. Explorers are schooled in various police techniques and then engage in regional competitions that highlight their skills in executing felony stops, shooting, and crime scene investigation.


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