Pubdate: Sat, 05 Jan 2002
Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)
Copyright: 2002 The Star-Journal Publishing Corp.
Author: Juan Espinosa
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)


Attorney General Ken Salazar told members of the Colorado DARE Association 
Friday that they represent the nation's most promising hope in the battle 
against drugs in our schools and he is their biggest cheerleader.

Salazar promised he would work tirelessly to help make the Colorado DARE 
(Drug Awareness Resistance Education) program the best in the country and 
called for the state's citizens to join him in his support for DARE - a 
program that he said teaches kids to resist drugs and violence.

"We have a drug problem in our schools," Salazar said. "Drugs know no 
boundaries. Every school has drug problems."

Salazar said he recently spoke to a group of 200 students in a small rural 
high school and that easily half of them "reeked" of marijuana.

He acknowledged that with the emphasis on CSAP tests and increased academic 
performance, DARE programs have new competition for a place in school 
curriculum, but cautioned that it is not an either/or situation.

"Unless we deal with the fundamental issues of drug-free schools, we will 
not achieve the academic excellence we want for our kids," Salazar said.

Salazar's comments were made at the awards dinner of the 12th Annual 
Conference of the Colorado Association of DARE Officers held at the Pueblo 
Convention Center. The dinner was a high point of a four-day training 
conference that will wrap up today.

The attorney general's office handles 10,000 legal cases a year and is 
tenacious on enforcing the state's laws, Salazar said. But the flip side to 
prosecution and law enforcement is prevention, he added.

"We need to embrace the prevention side of law enforcement," he said in his 
strong endorsement of DARE.

He acknowledged that the program has its critics and detractors, but 
encouraged the state's 500 police and sheriff DARE officers to stand firm.

"There also have been lots of successes," Salazar said. "Nothing is 
perfect. It's the people in the trenches who are in the best position to 
move on the drug-free schools agenda."

In addition to the drug-abuse prevention, DARE also is valuable in building 
relationships between the youth of the community and uniformed officers.

Before he spoke, participants at the dinner were entertained by the 
Danzantes de Pueblo - Corazon y Alma - a Pueblo folkloric dance group. 
After their performance, announcer Jose Esteban Ortega introduced the 
dancers and said all but the ones who have not yet attended fifth grade 
were DARE graduates.

Pueblo Police Chief Jim Billings said the DARE convention was in Pueblo 
this year due primarily to the efforts of Cpl. Tim Pepin, a veteran DARE 
officer who retired from the department in December. Pepin could not attend 
the conference, however, because he suffered a heart attack on Dec. 28 and 
underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery.

According to Billings, Pepin is out of the hospital but was not feeling 
well enough to attend the awards dinner.
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