By Jane Ernsberger
Times-Junction News Editor
The Plymouth Police Department is stepping up its commitment to the community by using the DARE program in the Plymouth-Shiloh Local Schools.
There will be a gathering on Thursday, Jan. 10 at 6 p.m. at the police department so officers can share what DARE will include, along with the introduction of the DARE officer. The meeting is open to the public and families are encouraged to attend.
According to Capt. Montel Gordon of the Plymouth Police Department, this is the first time his agency has sent an officer to receive their DARE certification. Officer Terrie Shean, he noted, was the perfect choice to become the DARE officer.
Shean has been with the Plymouth Police Department since Dec. 13, 2017. She brings with her over 35 years of experience in law enforcement.
“Her community relations skills are excellent,” Gordon said. “Terrie has the heart for the job. She has all of this positive influence coming off her.
“I sat down and asked her why she wanted to do this,” Gordon recalled. “She went through it. With the drugs in the community, she said we need to take action. Not doing something for the kids is unacceptable.”
Working with the youth in the area started seven months ago when Shean conducted the Plymouth Police Department’s Safety Town. It was a week of activities interspersed with safety lessons from a number of professionals.
“Safety Town was my first experience with the younger generation,” Shean pointed out. “It was really fun. Hopefully we can make it even better next year.”
This year, Shean will be focusing on DARE in the immediate future. She attended the two-week intensive training to be certified as a DARE officer.
“My experience has always been looking at the other side of drugs,” Shean pointed out. “By then the damage was already done. I am also a member of the Star Fish board. We try and help people live fruitful lives without drug dependency.”
She called the two weeks of training “very fast paced and intense.”
“It was some of the best training I have ever had,” Shean explained. “Being in law enforcement as long as I have been, I was always on the outskirts of the program. I knew about it, but I didn’t know how in-depth a program DARE is. It is used to get preventive maintenance out to kids.”
Drug Abuse Resistance Education is an international drug abuse resistance program. According to DARE Ohio, the program provides students with the skills they need to not only recognize but also resist pressures to experiment with drugs and to avoid detrimental and dangerous behavior. Lessons emphasize self-esteem, decision making, interpersonal communication skills and the consequences of their actions.
Shean said the DARE program was originally set up for students in the fifth and sixth grades. It still has those grades in the curriculum.
“Now, we go from preschool and kindergarten to grade 12,” she explained. “It offers a different variety of age-appropriate programs as opposed to just the elementary program.
“The learning is focused on the age,” Shean pointed out. “There are different concepts and key terms for each level. They are terms students can relate to.”
Shean used the kindergarten through grade two program to highlight how DARE is age-based. In the lesson in learning how to dial 9-1-1, she will use large pictures that illustrate when to call 9-1-1. The lesson plan is also on the back of the card.
“I’ve been surprised by the number of children who said their parents have already taught them how to call 9-1-1,” Shean noted. “The curriculum shows specific incidents to the children so they can recognize that is the time to call 9-1-1.
“The lessons themselves are short, sweet and direct” she pointed out. “A bridge of understanding is there for the little ones. there is so much more to the DARE program than there was at the beginning. They have so much more to offer.”
Shean said the high school curriculum is more of an online program. They will go online to get the information, and she said she will meet with them to review it. This takes coordination with the high for computer access.
“Afterwards, we have a question and answer session,” Shean explained. “The main focus is on drugs and how they can affect the kids who are younger.”
Part of the high school lesson involves hard drugs such as meth. Shean said the DARE stance is “not even once.” It also looks at the cost of drug abuse, courts, intervention and interdiction. It gives students a look at what to expect if they become a part of the drug culture.
The DARE meeting on on Jan. 10 will be a vehicle for the police department to introduce the program and Shean as the DARE officer.
“We also want to open this up to the community,” Gordon said. “We want them to see what is available. We want parents to know what is going on.”
Shean said there is a misconception that sees a DARE officer as the same as a school resource officer.
“There’s a huge difference,” she pointed out. “The DARE officer is focused on drug abuse education. The SRO is like the school’s security officer.
“They have a different focus,” Shean explained. “Some SROs do some drug prevention but it’s not as intense as a DARE officer.”
As a DARE officer, Shean said she has something more to offer. She has an entire network of resources. There were 22 law enforcement officers in her DARE class. Each, she noted, is part of that chain.
According to Gordon, the hope is to get part of the DARE curriculum into the classrooms before the end of the school year. It will be in full force when classes start in August.
There will also be a DARE box in each school. Students can share information with Shean, either anonymously or with their name. She said the information will be brought to Gordon so officers can follow the proper protocol for each situation.
“DARE doesn’t save everyone,” Shean said. “Doing nothing, however, is unacceptable. DARE has the most positive way of reaching youth, from pre-school to high school.
“I also think it’s something different for the community,” she added. “We haven’t done this here.”
Shean said she is excited to be a part of a department like Plymouth Police.
“The captain and the chief gave me the privilege to do this,” she said. “I definitely see this as a privilege. I will be learning right along with the ones I have contact with. I want to give them the information they need.”
“I’ve learned a lot of new things here,” she pointed out. “I enjoy it. I love it here. Everyone is community oriented in taking care of people’s needs. I live that.”