Law enforcement professionals from four states graduated last week from the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Officer Training program at Eastern View High School.
The Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office has helped to keep alive statewide the national drug prevention program created 1983 in L.A.
The recent robust, two-week training held locally was led by Culpeper County Sheriff’s Deputy Rob Hefner, D.A.R.E. State Coordinator. He was assisted by mentor staff, according to a release from Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office.
The training produced 25 new instructors certified in teaching the D.A.R.E. curriculum within their local school systems.
Participants came from Ohio, New York, West Virginia and Virginia, Hefner said in a phone call. An officer from Liberty University attended, he said, along with two from Virginia looking to restart D.A.R.E programs in their localities.
In the last two years there has been a substantial increase in D.A.R.E. programs across the nation, according to CCSO. “D.A.R.E. is more than just saying no to drugs, it is designed to create a positive relationship between law enforcement and young adults,” the release stated.
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When Virginia State Police Master Trooper Gene Ayers retired in 2015, the fate of D.A.R.E. was uncertain. Sgt. Mark Medford of York/Poqouson Sheriff’s office and Hefner came forward, and with support from Culpeper Sheriff Scott Jenkins, the program was kept in state, according to the CCSO release.
Hefner was named training director in 2015—last week’s training at EVHS was his 11th certification program for Virginia law enforcement. He has trained about 340 officers during his tenure in D.A.R.E. leadership, according to the sheriff’s office, and has been involved with the program for 16 years.
After completing the training, officers go back to their communities and spread the message for kids to live a healthy and drug-free life.
It’s about teaching elementary students life skills, Hefner said, addressing stress, bullying, peer-pressure, personal-pressure, and confident communication.
“DARE is not the same as it’s been,” he said.
The program, in addition, provides positive relationship-building in schools between law enforcement, staff and the youth, he said, recalling being in a kindergarten classroom teaching students about stop signs, stranger danger, and seatbelts.
He referenced a certain study from the ‘90s that claimed DARE was ineffective, saying the organization worked with the study’s writers to evolve the program to what it is today.
Hefner said DARE would be returning to Culpeper schools this year following a many-month reprieve during COVID. It’s an effective program he said is worth keeping around.
“We can’t let this die,” Hefner said, adding the program has expanded exponentially since.
“We would like to thank Deputy Rob Hefner and our other Culpeper D.A.R.E. officers for saving Virginia D.A.R.E. a few years ago and leading the state program as they have to what it is today. We recognize all the great work done in addition to their normal duties at our schools,” Jenkins stated.