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Published: Monday, 8/30/2004

Deputy's resolve advances D.A.R.E.

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Deputy Brett Warner has been associated with the D.A.R.E. program since 1997 and recently was elected state president. Deputy Brett Warner has been associated with the D.A.R.E. program since 1997 and recently was elected state president.
SIMMONS / BLADE Enlarge

Lucas County sheriff's Deputy Brett Warner has heard the criticism: Drug prevention programs don't work.

He knows some police departments have dropped the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program from their budget.

But the longtime D.A.R.E. officer isn't swayed by the critics and is skeptical of studies claiming prevention programs don't get through to their intended audience.

Instead, he wonders how many more people would be in jail if not for prevention programs.

"I really believe in D.A.R.E., and not in just D.A.R.E., but in prevention in general," said Deputy Warner, 37, who was recently elected president of D.A.R.E. Ohio. "I don't think we want to risk getting rid of prevention programs just to see if they were working."

Since 1997 when he became a certified D.A.R.E. officer, Deputy Warner has dedicated his law enforcement career to keeping kids away from drugs and violence. He's in the classrooms at 20 schools and spends most of his summer jumping from festivals to fairs.

He helps bring the anti-drug message to parent groups, Cub Scout packs, and home school coalitions. And now, armed with the New D.A.R.E. program, Deputy Warner is doing it in a more hands-on way.

Created in Los Angeles in 1983, the program has gone through a modernization effort where lectures behind a podium have been replaced by role-playing, mock courtroom exercises, and Web sites. This gives the deputy a chance to interact more with the students in elementary, middle, and high schools.

Born and reared in Whitehouse, he attended Anthony Wayne Schools. Deputy Warner began his police career in Waterville Township after spending time as a member of the security team in the U.S. Air Force.

It was in Waterville Township that he became a D.A.R.E. officer and began entering the schools.

His first assignment was his alma mater, where he worked with students for five years.

Deputy Warner joined the sheriff's office in 2002 when he learned Sheriff James Telb was looking for a new D.A.R.E. officer.

"I'm working my dream job," said the father of three daughters, ages 18, 6, and 1. "I love kids. I think it's important that kids are given as many tools to go out into the world as they can."

But while 500 officers across the state are actively involved in helping to spread the message of prevention, the program has been criticized. Some police departments, including Toledo, have dropped the program.

Still, Deputy Warner said the majority of law enforcement agencies and school districts - including those in Perrysburg, Maumee, Sylvania, Sylvania Township, and Oregon - believe in the program and continue to support it.

Sheriff Telb said his department supports the program simply because it "works."

"We've been doing it for over 10 years, and the kids know us growing up, they thank us for doing this program," the sheriff said. "The D.A.R.E. program is good; the D.A.R.E. officer makes it work."

Bill McAfee, Springfield Middle School's health teacher, has watched Deputy Warner share stories of drinking and driving accidents and incarcerated youths with his seventh grade students.

He said the deputy's strength is his ability to relate to the students on a personal level with stories of his own youth, military career, and police work.

"I would say he relates to the students well: The stories that he talks about, his regular life, his job, when he's on the road, the kids just can't get enough of that," he said. "We give them so much information so when the time comes to make a choice, they do the right thing."

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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