The Oregon Police Department received significantly less grant money from the Ohio Attorney General’s 2012-2013 Drug Use Prevention Grant this year than in previous years.
This year, the department received a paltry $5,162.66.
The grant funds half the salary of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) officer, Police Chief Mike Navarre said at a council meeting on May 21.
“This is money we applied for and can be used to pay for 50 percent of the officers’ salary only for the time that is spent doing drug education in the schools, mainly the D.A.R.E. program,” said Navarre. “The amount we are going to receive this year is considerably less than previous years, and the reason for that, I believe, is they went from a very liberal interpretation of the rules to a strict interpretation of the rules, and we are going to adhere to the strict interpretation.”
In the 1990s, according to Navarre, the department received amounts from $12,000 to $19,000 in Drug Use Prevention Grants. More recently, the department received $23,000 in 2008-09, $32,000 in 2009-10, $40,000 in 2010-11, and $35,500 last year.
“So this is considerably less than in previous years,” said Navarre.
“More than considerably less,” said Council President Tom Susor.
Councilman Mike Sheehy asked Navarre to elaborate about the state’s more conservative interpretation of the rules that resulted in the low grant amount this year.
“Who’s making the determination about the amount of money?” Sheehy asked.
Navarre said it was Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
“In previous years, the city was awarded money that equated to one half of the salary of a D.A.R.E. officer. I think it was sometime late last year that they realized that it was only for hours spent doing drug education. And we did in fact confirm that with the state attorney general’s office, so when the application was made for this year’s award, we went with what we believe to be the correct interpretation of the rules,” said Navarre.
“When confronted with the actual language of the grant requirements, we found it was very hard to argue that the amount allocated this year was less than what we’re entitled to,” said Administrator Mike Beasley. “For some time, someone might be able to make the case that we did well by this grant. We were never supposed to get 50 percent of the salary, which is what we’ve been collecting for quite a while.”
“It comes as a big surprise to me,” said Sheehy.
“Does this reflect what’s going on around the state in every municipality?” Susor asked Navarre.
“I can’t answer that,” said Navarre. “I don’t know if the other municipalities are strictly adhering to the grant rules. I would certainly hope that they were.”
Councilman Dennis Walendzak asked what duties the D.A.R.E. officer for Oregon Schools, Sara Shaw, performs other than drug education.
“For nine months out of the year, she teaches the D.A.R.E. curriculum at the fifth grade level and for Kateri [Academy],” said Navarre. “During the summer months, she does Safety Town, which does not qualify as an expense under this grant. And when Safety Town is over with, she works road patrol and answers calls for service.”
“So during the school year, she’s full-time at the school or does she also do road patrol and other duties?” asked Walendzak.
“She’s pretty much full-time. It’s a very lengthy curriculum that she teaches for D.A.R.E. - several classes,” said Navarre.
“It really comes down to the actual time spent in the classroom,” added Navarre. “It doesn’t count for the graduation ceremonies, any preparation that goes into it, any other type of meetings that she would attend. Keep in mind, we’re only entitled to 50 percent of those hours, and this is what it came out to. And this was checked and double checked. And it was not done that way previously. This is the correct way.”
Sheehy asked if the police department had any drug education program in the middle schools.
“I don’t believe the school resource officers are doing any kind of formal drug education program that would qualify under this grant requirement,” said Navarre.
Sheehy asked Navarre if he heard the criticism of the D.A.R.E. programs.
“As the studies seem to suggest, even where we have good D.A.R.E. programs like we do in this community, there is basically no difference between those students who have the benefit of a D.A.R.E. program and those who don’t,” said Sheehy.
Navarre said he was aware of the criticisms.
“I did go to my first D.A.R.E. graduation,” said Navarre. “I’m extremely, extremely impressed with Officer Sara Shaw. The curriculum has changed from 15 years ago when there was a lot of criticism of the outcome of D.A.R.E. education. I also rode in the parade yesterday with Officer Shaw. And all of those kids who lined up on both sides of the road knew her by name, said `Hello” to her, and she corresponded back to them. That type of interaction between her and those students at that 5th grade level to me is priceless. You really have a good thing going here with her. I’m not even going to entertain the thought of discontinuing it. I think it would be a major mistake. I think she really does a lot of good.”
“I guess it’s the beginning of community policing for those young citizens,” said Sheehy. “Whatever we can do to address the problem, we have to keep trying.”
“Anything that puts our police department on a front line basis with our students is a positive thing, and I’m anxious to see it continue,” said Susor.