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Officers recognized for years of dedication to teaching D.A.R.E.

25 officers in Illinois have spent 20 or more years teaching D.A.R.E. to students.

By Dan Campana

The Illinois D.A.R.E. Officers Association recently honored 25 police officers from around the state for long careers focused on positive interaction with youth through the program which debuted three decades ago.

Each officer has spent at least 20 years teaching kids in kindergarten through high school about – among other things – the dangers of drugs and how to make healthy and positive decisions. The program, first established in California in 1983, has evolved with the times as online safety and other modern issues have been incorporated into the lessons presented by D.A.R.E. officers.

And, some have been at the forefront of engaging children and teens on these topics for a long time. IDOA recognized the following officers for serving as D.A.R.E. teachers for two decades or more:

  • Alexander County Sheriff’s Office: Ed Tolbert
  • Arcola Police Department: Chief Michael Phillips
  • Arthur Police Department: Chief Michael Goodman
  • Burr Ridge Police Department: Angie Wilhelmi
  • Dwight Police Department: Gary Beier
  • El Paso Police Department: Chief Jeffrey Price
  • Elmwood Park Police Department: Bruce Boggs
  • Gurnee Police Department: Lisa Moe
  • Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office: Sheriff Greg Brenner, who has taught D.A.R.E. since 1989
  • Hartford Police Department: John Grigg
  • Jackson County Sheriff’s Office: Mark Wilson
  • Lemont Police Department: Denis Bode
  • McDonough County Sheriff’s Office: Jim Percy
  • McLeansboro Police Department: Robert Crow
  • Minier Police Department: Chief Daryl Weseloh
  • Paris Police Department: Chief Mike Henness
  • Princeton Police Department: Rob Jensen
  • Rantoul Police Department: Kevin Kaiser
  • Rock Island County Sheriff’s Office: Jim Miller, who is also IDOA president
  • Smithton Police Department: Chief Brian Vielweber
  • Steger Police Department: Patrick Rossi
  • Troy Police Department: Chris Coyne
  • Union County Sheriff’s Office: Al Kamp
  • West Dundee Police Department: Donald Pate
  • Willow Springs Police Department: Barbara Gagle

“These agencies have maintained a strong foothold in delivering the proven curriculum which is constantly evaluated and changes with the times as it adapts to the student’s learning style and social shifts,” IDOA Training Coordinator and Shorewood Police Officer Kim Giugler said.

The longevity of these honorees is also notable because of many departments rotate officers through different unit assignments and the financial constraints which caused some agencies to drop the program entirely. The latter led to IDOA losing its training site in 2008, according to Giugler. But things are rebounding.

“I am starting to see an upward swing of interest,” Giugler explained. “In 2016, we brought the training site back to Illinois with the help of Shorewood, Plainfield and Romeoville police departments. Some agencies have reinstated the program and other agencies are beginning it for the first time. D.A.R.E. officers do their own fundraising and many use their own personal resources to benefit the children in their communities.”

The next round of officer training takes place Feb. 19 through March 2 at the Plainfield Police Department. An application can be found by visiting the IDOA website.

“It is an intense learning experience like no other,” Giugler said. “The training last two weeks and prepares the officer for the challenges of stepping into a classroom for the first time as an instructor.

“I know I am not alone when I say teaching the D.A.R.E. program has also changed me for the better,” Giugler added.