The North Carolina D.A.R.E. Officers’ Association Conference was a big success. Larry Lawton provided training to the D.A.R.E. Officers and spoke at Havelock Middle School in Bern, North Carolina. A real eye-opener for both the officers and students. Larry pulls no punches.
“Life is not all roses and young people need to hear the truth,” said Lawton.
“It is all about choices and understanding the consequence of those choices. Sometimes those consequences aren’t pretty and young people need to hear the truth.” said Lawton.
What is D.A.R.E., and why are these courageous front-line police officers the future of policing?
Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) is a substance abuse prevention education program that seeks to prevent use of controlled drugs, membership in gangs, and violent behavior. It was founded in Los Angeles in 1983 as a joint initiative of then LAPD chief Daryl Gates and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Students who enter the program sign a pledge not to use drugs or join gangs and are informed by local police officers about the government’s beliefs about the dangers of recreational drug use in an interactive in-school curriculum which lasts ten weeks.
Instructors of the D.A.R.E. curriculum are local police officers who must undergo 80 hours of special training in areas such as child development, classroom management, teaching techniques, and communication skills. For high school instructors, 40 hours of additional training are prescribed. Police officers are invited by the local school districts to speak and work with students. Police officers are permitted to work in the classroom by the school district and do not need to be licensed teachers. There are programs for different age levels. Working with the classroom teachers, the officers lead students over a number of sessions on workbooks and interactive discussions.
The D.A.R.E. program involves children interacting with police officers or sheriffs in a classroom environment rather than in a criminal justice setting, such as when officers must intervene in domestic violence. The Surgeon General reports that positive effects have been demonstrated regarding attitudes towards the police. The D.A.R.E program’s use of police officers in schools alleviates some children’s concerns about situations like school shootings and other threats of violence to children while at school.
The Future of Policing
When I spoke at the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) in Plano, Texas some years back, the trend towards community policing was starting then. My visit and recognition on the Floor of the United States Congress for helping young people and police agencies showed that the whole country wants communicators, not robots with guns.
Community policing is not a new concept and has been around for decades, but community policing hasn’t been in the forefront of policing until some very public incidents with police involved shootings has fostered an ‘Us Against Them’ mentality between communities and the police serving them.
There is blame on both sides of the fence and getting past that is key. My four police mentors and men I call good friends are Chief Mike Force, Chief Frank Adderley, Chief John Shockey and Deputy Chief Chris DiGiuseppi. Chief Force and Deputy Chief DiGiuseppi are with the Lake Saint Louis Police Department in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri, Chief Shockey was formerly with the Rockledge Police Department and Chief Frank Adderley was formerly with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
It is these leaders who educated me on TRUE community policing. All of them are communicators, forward thinkers and care deeply for the men under their commands and the communities they serve. Chief Shockey saw the benefits to his officers with increased morale as well and the benefits to the community when funding was tight and programs were dwindling, Chief Force flew to Melbourne, Florida and vetted the Reality Check Program and had me present the Reality Check Program to the board of the IACP and Chief Adderley who ran a larger department saw the wide ranging benefits of being out-front and pro-active with possible problems in the future and using an ex-con and honorary police officer to connect with parts of the community police have difficulty with.
Chief Force has been in Law Enforcement for nearly 40 years and has been a Chief for over 25 years. All of the Chief’s were forward thinking and saw the pendulum swing towards community policing. Community policing will ultimately save lives, help people who are making serious mistakes, reduce crime and save money.
Law Enforcement Oath of Honor – On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the constitution, my community, and the agency I serve.
It is all about communications and community policing. We all know that police officers run towards danger while most people run away from danger. Nobody questions a police officer’s courage and commitment to helping the communities they serve. What people do question is, does the police officer have the communication skills to deescalate a situation, to communicate with the citizens they serve and HELP the community? A police officer does all those things with his communications skills, not his gun.
That brings me to the best communicators a police agency has; DARE Officers and School Resource Officers.
Community minded cities are growing. Mayors, Council-members, City Managers are serving citizens who want the police to be community orientated. Who hires the Police Chief? The City Manager, who serves at the discretion of the City Council. What do you think the City Manager is going to look for in a Police Chief? Someone who has excellent communication skills. That brings me back to DARE Officers and School Resource Officers, the best communicators in policing.
In closing, I met some of the best communicators in policing. The North Carolina D.A.R.E. Officers. The leadership of the NC DARE organization is well run and organized. When I travel to speak and train police officers, I don’t just come in and do my session, or keynote speech and leave, I mingle and talk with the officers and get to see where their heads and hearts are at, and to a whole, they were positive, energetic, focused and everyone cared deeply about helping young people and learning.
It was an honor to work with all the officers, volunteers and leadership at their yearly conference.
The Reality Check Program works with police agencies to help them connect the community with the police and breakdown the ‘Us Against Them’ mentality some communities have with the police.
Please contact us and speak with Larry to see how the Reality Check Program can work with your agency to reduce crime, help young people, increase officer morale and get the positive publicity every law enforcement agency can use. CLICK HERE