GREENFIELD — When Danny Williams was a young teen, he knew two things: He wanted to be a police officer, and he wanted to help kids.
That’s why Williams, who has been with the Greenfield Police Department for nearly two decades, jumped at the chance when he was asked to help out with the local Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
The nationwide program, founded in 1983, tries to give kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs and violence. The police officer-led series of classroom lessons teaches local middle school children how to resist peer pressure and live productive lives.
Williams, whose law enforcement career began in Shelby County in 1999, felt he was approaching a career crossroads as a patrolman. He said an opportunity to get into the classroom and connect with young people has been a blessing to him as well as the students. He replaced Steve McCarley, a longtime GPD officer who retired in April.
“I would have to say when I started teaching the program with the kids at Greenfield Intermediate School, it rejuvenated my career and probably saved it,” Williams said.
Chief Brian Hartman didn’t look at Williams so much as an officer who was burned out, but rather as one who was at that point in his career where he was looking for a new adventure, something more fulfilling.
“I do believe he has found it,” Hartman said. “Officer Williams is a caring individual and is always willing to go above and beyond to make someone he comes in contact with live better.”
The chief has been pleased with the work and dedication Williams has put into the D.A.R.E. program. He thinks Williams excels at talking to the kids and understanding what they are going through.
Williams feels like he can relate to children because he knows they have doubts and concerns and can struggle at times, things he understands. Williams had an accident in 1995 and lost three fingers on one hand, but he didn’t let that stop him from chasing after his dream of being a police officer.
“I tell them that story and how I bounced back from it,” Williams said. “They call me ‘Seven, or officer Seven,’ and I’m OK with that.”
He’s told the children while he’s good with joking about his handicap, not everyone is and noted it’s important to share lessons about compassion with the middle school students.
Williams went to training, a two-week school, to learn about the D.A.R.E. program and the responsibilities that come with teaching it. It was during the training that he realized this was his real chance to help kids make good decisions.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 23 years and yeah, I was like everyone else telling people ‘just say no to drugs’ but, it’s so much more deeper than that, and I really didn’t know it until I went to the D.A.R.E. school,” Williams said.
The D.A.R.E program teaches children about decision-making that can affect myriad situations.
“It’s define, asses, respond and evaluate,” he said. “It’s a model that can also be used by adults.”
Williams’ goal is never to scare the children, but to help them understand the tools they need to make decisions that will help them lead productive lives.
“I want to reach the kids,” he said. “I want kids to like us and feel safe around us.”
That means making sure the students know they can approach him with their problems, no matter how difficult the circumstances may be.
“I want to be part of their ‘help network,’” Williams said.
Williams has had lunch in the cafeteria and spent time on the playground with fifth-grade students at Greenfield Intermediate School and at Maxwell Intermediate School. He puts the kids through a 10-week course that includes a graduation ceremony where those who complete the program get a certificate.
Williams had planned to retire in a few years from the department, but since becoming the D.A.R.E. instructor, he now envisions staying at least seven more years so he can watch his first class of fifth-graders graduate from high school.
Hartman said he is gratified that GPD has the right person running the D.A.R.E program.
“It means a lot to me as the chief to know that I have an officer who is willing and dedicated to make this program successful and more importantly cares about the effects it has on the children he instructs,” Hartman said. “It’s also important for the citizens to know they have an officer who truly works to make a difference.”
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All Rights Reserved.