Pubdate: Thu, 19 Aug 2010
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2010 New Haven Register
Author: Amanda Pinto, Register Staff


WEST HAVEN - In one corner of the playground outside Washington
School, Clinton Police Officer Matthew Reed had a group of young
campers laughing, as he joked and led a conversation about friendship
and peer pressure.

Across the parking lot, West Haven Officer Kim Bennett sat with a
group of 6, 7 and 8 year olds, listening to their questions and
suggestions, and teaching them about safe decision making. But the
children aren't the students here, the police officers are. For two
weeks, West Haven has hosted 27 officers from across the state and
country in the city's first Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer
training program.

The officers went through about 100 hours of training, and last week
put those skills to use, teaching the D.A.R.E. curriculum at seven
camps that comprise the city's Summer Playground Program, said Trooper
Ralph Morales, who ran the training.

The state runs one such training program each year, Morales said. The
officers graduated from the program Friday at the state Police Academy
in Meriden.

"This is part of our ongoing commitment to youth in our city and our
partnership with our community," said Sgt. Martin Garcia. who will be
supervising the Community Outreach Unit. "The officers were chosen
because we felt they'd be an excellent fit to the program, and they
absolutely are."

The D.A.R.E. program equipped the cops - including city officers
Bennett, Cortney Dorsi, Antoine Hayward, and William Maruottolo - with
skills to manage classrooms, facilitate conversations about decision
making, and substance abuse avoidance strategies, Morales said.

For Bennett, being a D.A.R.E. officer is a chance to befriend
children, some of whom don't have many resources, and help them when
they have problems.

To see Bennett talk to children about decision making, watch the video

"It was just something I've always wanted to do," Bennett, who has
been with the department for four years, said of being a D.A.R.E.
officer. "I've always enjoyed working with kids; I have a son of my
own. ... I try to be a role model for them, to be able to gain their
trust so they feel comfortable with (cops) to be able to come to me
and talk to me." 
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