Officers with Conroe ISD Police partake in a prayer during a graduation ceremony from training with the D.A.R.E. program at Stockton Junior High School, Friday, June 18, 2021, in Conroe. The program lasted approximately two weeks.

Officers with Conroe ISD Police partake in a prayer during a graduation ceremony from training with the D.A.R.E. program at Stockton Junior High School, Friday, June 18, 2021, in Conroe. The program lasted approximately two weeks.
Gustavo Huerta, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
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After two weeks of training, 11 Conroe ISD police officers graduated from the D.A.R.E. training program for law enforcement. The district hosted both the training and a graduation ceremony for the 20 officers who participated in the program.

D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) was founded in 1983 with the intention of helping kids avoid involvement with drugs, gangs, or violence. The officer training gets police ready to bring the D.A.R.E. lessons to kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms.

“It gets us to get the students to see another side of us,” said CISD Police Sgt. Brandy Walker about why the district police department encourages the D.A.R.E training. “This is not your regular law enforcement training. You have to be open-minded when you come into this program.”

The two-week training course prepares officers to give 15 minute presentations, and 45 minute presentations, in front of classrooms based on the D.A.R.E. curriculum. Officers start by learning the cmoplete D.A.R.E. lessons then practice giving their presentations to an audience, and to a class of students.

Randy Kirkman, the facilitator for the training held at CISD and a retired police officer, said part of getting officers ready to enter the classroom includes breaking down their barriers.

“Working the streets, there are certain things for officer safety that you must do. So, on your mind constantly is ‘What is my circle of safety in this environment that I’m coming into,’” Kirkman said. “There are certain guards that are put up. There are certain things that I look for, there are certain things that I listen for, because officer safety and public safety are always on our mind.”

Officers can’t enter the classroom with those guards up, preparing for a threat, if their goal is to create a bond and effectively do community outreach with the students.

These training programs are held throughout the country and officers must apply to take them. On Friday, the district hosted a graduation ceremony for 20 officers from at least six different agencies. The class speaker, Latricia Irvine, is a member of the United States Air Force who came to Conroe all the way from Italy for the training.

“It’s always an honor to be a part of the graduating class,” Craig Fletcher, Texas D.A.R.E. state coordinator and a retired Houston police officer, said. “These two weeks is a very stretching experience for them, and to see them culminate their experiences and come to the realization of what they’re going to be able to accomplish in the lives of these students when they go into the classroom (is exciting).”

The district had a D.A.R.E. training planned last year but it was canceled because of COVID-19. The last D.A.R.E training CISD held was back in 2015.

Walker, with the CISD police department, said the call will go out to all district campuses that D.A.R.E. trained officers are ready to and eager to give their presentations to students.

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All Rights Reserved.