Two of the most important skills a DARE officer must possess are the abilities to sing and dance.
These skills were put on display in early February when five DARE officers in training were captured on video at Lexington’s Harrison Elementary School performing the “Peel Bananas” camp song.
The video was taken by Kentucky’s DARE coordinator Jonathan Biven, 37, who was promoted to the position this month. The clip, which features the officers in full uniform, was posted on Facebook on Feb. 2 and has since collected more than 35,000 views.
“It’s just an opportunity for those kids to see those officers in a different way. To see them, to be honest, as human beings,” said Biven, who added that the DARE officers were not told about their performance at Harrison ahead of time. “If you can’t stand someone to come up and hug you, you’re in the wrong training. It could be the only time that kid gets a hug. As a police officer, you could be the only friend he has.”
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DARE, which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles as a way to give “kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence,” the organization’s website states. Kentucky adopted the program in 1987 and since then has graduated about 24 officers per year from its program, Biven said.
The DARE officer training program is two weeks long and rigorous, Biven said. The training program in February had 24 officers from around the commonwealth and the country, including nine officers from the Lexington Police Department and two from California, public information officer Brenna Angel said. Lexington police ended their relationship with DARE in 2011 over budget and staffing problems, Angel said. The department brought the program back in August.
Having DARE officers like Lexington’s Edward Thurman in Harrison has been a blessing, said vice principal Claudine Barrow, who has been with the district for 24 years. Thurman spends one day a week at Harrison and visits each fifth-grade classroom for 45 minutes, Barrow said. The school has 298 students, of whom 98 percent live in poverty, Barrow said.
“We absolutely love the program,” Barrow said. “We think it’s very important.”