DARE officers ready for school

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 23, 2002

School students today face far greater challenges than math, history and biology, and a team of Suffolk police officers stands ready to help.

Local law enforcement has formed an alliance with Suffolk’s schools through the &uot;Drug Abuse Resistance Education&uot; (DARE) program. There are 12 elementary schools, four middle schools and two private schools with a total of almost 200 elementary students being taught by the DARE officers.

Officers involved in the program include Tammy M. James, Andre Sparks, Sandy Gilluly, Kimberly Mayo, and Carl Wheeler. Each is willing to help children learn skills that will help them throughout their lives.

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According to James, the DARE motto &uot;Education & Law Enforcement; Partners in Our Kids’ Future,&uot; perfectly describes the mission of DARE and the schools.

&uot;I love kids, and we (officers) have the opportunity of working with the kids and it’s a joy,&uot; said James.

She has served as a DARE officer for the past three years, and Gilluly said James is an &uot;excellent&uot; DARE officer.

Gilluly is one of the police department’s officers who can be seen riding her police issue mountain bike around the downtown area of Suffolk. Together with Tom Phippins, she visits with many of the downtown business owners and people shopping in those businesses.

&uot;I also see a lot of our DARE students and they get so excited when they see us riding around,&uot; said Gilluly. &uot;They will call out to us and they want to know all about the bike patrol. I feel that this just lets the kids know that we (police officers) are just regular people and that we are not the enemy but a friend they can come to in times when they need a friend.&uot;

Sparks agrees with Gilluly, and added that &uot;kids are our future,&uot; and that in his three years as a DARE instructor he’s seen the program as an excellent educational tool.

&uot;It educates them about drug resistance and how to stand up under the stress and pressures kids face today,&uot; said Sparks. &uot;It also breaks down barriers between law enforcement and the community and shows that police officers are caring and concerned people.&uot;

James added that DARE is a program funded through donations and fund-raising events staged by DARE students. It is not unusual to see them holding a car wash or bake sale to raise funds for projects. The nationwide program receives no funding from police departments and must rely on the generosity of the public and businesses as well as churches and civic groups.

&uot;We never solicit funds,&uot; she said. &uot;We have received donations from churches, civic groups, and businesses and some private contributions from local citizens.&uot;

The local DARE program is in the midst of a T-shirt sale to promote awareness. The shirts are printed on front and back and DARE’s official mascot is &uot;Daren,&uot; a lion symbolizing courage and the strength. He serves to remind children they have those attributes to help them resist drugs and alcohol and negative peer pressure.

The T-shirts are available for purchase for $8 each and they are available from any DARE officer or by calling James, Sparks, Mayo, Gilluly, or Carl Wheeler at 923-2358.