Officers Samuel Bady (left) and Mark Wood (right) with their award from the Williamson County Anti-Drug Coalition. Photo courtesy of City of Brentwood.
For nearly 20 years, Brentwood Police Department Crime Prevention Officers Samuel Bady and Mark Wood have been a team, fighting to keep young people in Brentwood from falling into the trap of substance abuse.
Through their work as certified D.A.R.E. instructors, Bady and Wood seek to instill in countless elementary, middle and high school students a sense of self-empowerment to resist social pressures and lead drug, alcohol and tobacco-free lives.
For their efforts, Officers Bady and Wood were recently named Outstanding Coalition Members of the Williamson County Anti-Drug Coalition. The Brentwood Home Page spoke with Officer Bady Thursday about his work in the D.A.R.E. program over the years, the challenges that Brentwood’s teens face in terms of substance abuse issues and winning the award.
Bady and Wood do more than just try to scare kids away from drugs during their classroom presentations, they help students learn to make conscious decisions to avoid illicit substances.
“We’re teaching students to resist abusing drugs through the strategy of decision making,” Bady said. We’re teaching “… them to make wise choices and good decisions for themselves and hopefully for their futures.”
Bady strives to be honest and open with the students, listening to their stories and their concerns.
“My approach to talking to them is I try to reason with them with the common sense knowledge they should have,” Bady said.
Take smoking for instance. Instead of just saying, “Don’t smoke,” Bady tries to lead students to realize for themselves that smoking is not a good lifestyle choice.
“Why would you choose to put a drug in your body that has zero benefit for you?” he asks. “There is nothing that tobacco can do to benefit your body. It’s a detriment, it’s going to harm you.”
Part of the challenge is getting kids to look beyond that cloak of youth invincibility and to consider the real-life consequences of poor decisions. No kid does drugs for the first time with hopes of becoming an addict, but nevertheless addicts are born every day.
“It’s never their intent, but time has a way of sneaking up on you and before you know it you’re addicted. When addiction sets in, drug abuse not only affects that individual person, it affects everybody who loves and cares about that individual,” Bady said.
Bady knows this all too well. Before he joined the Brentwood Police Department, he worked for five years as an undercover narcotics officer in Atlanta, helping put drug dealers behind bars. He witnessed firsthand the daily struggles of people who were prisoners to their addictions.
That experience led Bady to the work he does now.
“I wanted to do something to get out in front of the problem rather than being reactive to it,” he said. “I wanted to be part of educating young people how not to ever wind up in those types of situations.”
Going from the urban street to the suburban classroom is a big career change and Bady does admit his old job could be exciting. However, he said he does not miss his years undercover “because I love my current position, and I love what I do.”
Being a D.A.R.E. instructor is a mission for Bady and Wood.
“It’s almost like I have a strong burden to see young people be all that they can be, and what fuels that is knowing that they are the future of our country,” he said. “And if we want to continue to have a strong country, we need to make sure we keep our country strong from the inside and that means strengthening our youth so they can become strong adults and be good citizens and take over roles that we currently hold so they can keep us moving forward.”
In Brentwood, Bady sees underage drinking as the number one issue among young people.
“It seems to be such an acceptable part of teen culture, but I don’t just blame the teenagers about it because they are fighting against visual outlets … the media, social media. They take all that information in through commercials, advertisements and even just word of mouth,” he said. “In their opinion they think it’s OK, it’s the cool thing to do and what’s the big deal?”
Binge drinking in particular is an issue in Brentwood, he said. Bady said Williamson County could very well lead the state in teenage binge drinking.
“That’s probably due to this is a wealthy county,” he said. “Our teenagers they may have the financial means to actually get alcohol underage. Or I believe in this city they could simply get it from home.”
Marijuana use is a struggle, too. The fact that some states have legalized the personal or medicinal use of the drug has made it difficult to convince kids it is still illegal in Tennessee, Bady said.
The city does have some opioid abuse in teens as well, but Bady said he had seen that mostly in student athletes who may become addicted after they were prescribed painkillers for an injury.
Bady said neither he or Officer Wood knew to expect the Anti-Drug Coalition award.
“We were both surprised and taken aback, but it was a real nice gesture and we’re proud to have it,” Bady said.
He said the award reflected not only he and Officer Wood’s work, but the work of those who enable them to do what they do.
“I think it’s a wonderful reflection not only on me and Mark’s dedication but the dedication of our department and the city of Brentwood’s administration to allow us to represent them in those kinds of endeavors across the county,” he said.
There is always more work to be done, though, and Bady and Wood will be back in classrooms soon to get their message across to more kids.
“I think the majority of our students are success stories,” he said. “We have students constantly come back and say Officer Bady I just want to thank you for what you taught me in D.A.R.E.”
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