Friday, January 22, 2010

How DARE they?

With wounds still fresh from the New Year’s Day layoffs and city officials still grumbling about potential budget cuts, first-year Police Chief Chris Cole played the DARE card. That being, he defunded the city’s “drug abuse resistance education” program, much to the dismay of the few folks in prevention that still think this Reagan-era relic is an effective weapon to use against the so-called War on Drugs.

The city’s DARE program was instituted more than two decades ago and has trained scores of officers to teach children how to stay off dope. For a while, the Spa City Police actually hosted DARE training seminars and were considered a leading agency in helping to proliferate the program.

“The DARE program has been singularly successful in Saratoga because of the personal quality and integrity of the officers who teach and interact with the students," Maureen Cary, of the Saratoga Partnership for Prevention, lamented to the Times Union Thursday.

Yet after years of brainwashing and billions worth of tax-dollar funding –estimated between $1.04 and $1.34 billion annually across the United States –DARE never seemed to live up to its reputation of preventing drug abuse. Kids kept smoking or snorting, dealers kept dealing and cops kept busting. By 2001, even the U.S. Surgeon General was questioning the program’s effectiveness. Six years later the Association of Professional Psychologists even went as far to say DARE programs actually increase the likelihood of children falling into drug habits.

In Saratoga Springs, the city continues to graduate high school seniors who go on to lead fruitful lives of drug smoking and binge drinking. Some of them come around from their substance-induced haze and go onto lead productive lives. Others succumb to their vices and follow the path to its end. This happens whether or not there’s a cop there telling them that it’s OK to not be one of the ‘cool kids’ smoking grass in between lunch period and class; it’s fine to avoid the weekend keggers or friend who passes a 16 oz. Sprite bottle half-filled with mom’s Smiranoff.

Still, municipalities continue to funnel funding into DARE programs. In specific, this means paying cops’ overtime, mileage and travel expenses for attending DARE seminars and assorted other informational sessions for a program that has never been determined to be effective. And the funding often means spending public safety dollars to keep a cop in a classroom instead of out on the street, as Cole proved by sending the Spa City’s DARE officer back onto the beat.

Like many feel-good programs, DARE is able to withstand the omnipresent scepter of budget cuts because it has withstood the test of time; it is etched into our collective memory as something that is needed to prevent the youth twisting up a fatty with pages ripped out of the Dr. Seuss book tucked in their Elmo book bag. Cutting DARE is a political hot-button and one that social conservatives love to flout as an indicator of a society that is increasingly morally corrupt.

And that is evidenced by the indignation posted by the Saratogian’s online readers. These folks seem to think their anecdotal evidence about the DARE program –that junior didn’t take up manufacturing crystal meth in the basement of their East Side colonial –is enough to warrant keeping a full-time officer in a classroom telling kids to forgo their natural impulses to try something different. Not that any of these kids don’t already get this message from health class, public service announcements, sports team code-of-conduct pledges, persistent visits from Mothers Against Drunk Driving or other organizations, et cetera.

Even if DARE did prove to be somewhat effect, there simply isn’t enough cash lying around to keep a program going in Saratoga Springs. It’s something former Police Chief Ed Moore might have thought about last year or even the year before when he was crafting a department budget way beyond the means set out by the City Council. These are the exact programs that could have been trimmed to prevent the layoffs that occurred, if in fact there were any once the dust finally settles.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The most recent DARE officer was a dedicated guy. He was instrumental in getting the vehicle donated for his use (by a Wilton-based car dealership).
But, as you say, where was Chief Moore? The hand-writing was on the wall, long before the "Dreyer Days". Long before the Chief took a mental leave-of-absence.

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:51 It would seem that the Department suffered from a long history of believing that it would simply grow and grow and that the taxpayers would always have the funds to support anything imagined. The Chief became a politician and in the previous Commissioner surrounded by his minions, he saw the opportunity to ratchet up the demands and the straw, being the giant fortress -- a 60’s model citadel surrounded by a sea of pursuit vehicles -– it all collapsed.

What is tragic for everyone, is that the Department could have had improvements, even respectable modifications had the direction been all along to improve conditions and become efficient. All or nothing proved wrong. Let’s hope that the new administrator can round the rough edges left from 4 years of impracticality so that we can all move on.

3:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comments on this blog and other blogs always talk about what great guys Kelly and Strauss are, how much the kids like them, etc. Who the hell cares? That has nothing to do with the fact that the program never accomplished a thing!

5:35 AM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

DARE to stay off drugs kids. But guess what? You can buy beer at Price Chopper, Stewarts, gas stations and a hundred saloons and restaurants downtown.

Don't do drugs kids, because we'll lock you up for possession. But in many states it is decriminalized. Hell, you can smoke pot outdoors in California and nobody gives you a second glance.

Stay off the drugs kids, but if you want to make money as a professional athlete you'd better get roided up. Don't worry... you can cheat, break records, make a ton of money and then just apologize later.

Depressed and upset with the world? Pfitzer and their ilk have a number of legal drugs they can pimp your way.

DARE is a hypocrite program from a hypocrite country. If the economy continues to slide you can bet that the growing police state will try and balance the budget by preying on the public.

Here is the real message that should be delivered to our youth:

Watch your back! And know a good lawyer.

6:15 AM  
Anonymous The Big Unit said...

Erin? Yummmmmmmmmm. I miss her. Where's she been hidng?

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 5:35 - Kelly and Straus are good guys. They didn't create the program or the job description. Now they have a chance at work that may be more effective. There was a time when the PBA was associated with officers volunteering time towards and helping kids in the community in larger cities. Those kids did not easily forget them. Today the PBA is associated more with secret work instructions that can contradict with what is required by the City’s Charter. All the officers should have a shift that allows them back into the neighborhoods and business districts in order to get to know them better.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heartily applaud Comm. Wirth.

It's not a popular decision, yet one that needed to be done quickly.

No himming and hawing, no stammering or stuttering, no arguments needed.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 10:43:

For what are you applauding Dickworth?

What did he have to do with killing DARE?

The decision was made by Police Chief Cole, not by Dickworth.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree 10:43 - Wirth responded to what most likely would have been a knee jerk unpopular decision, but one that was right given all of the national studies to end the out dated program. What a refreshing change from Mr. fail-o-meter. Let's hope for more cooperative ingenuity.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe SSFD can take a lesson from this and abolish its very costly,nonessential,redundant paramedic program. It could have saved our city several times the amount, that the job cuts will.

6:00 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Both my son's have gone through the Dare program at Saratoga Springs City Schools. What a waste of taxpayer money. My kids claim that they learned how to use a bong from the program.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:35
Obviously, you do not know how these decisions are made. The Chief simply followed the Commissioner's order: End the D.A.R.E program, it's a waste of manpower.

6:00
The reason for the SSFD having the paramedic program was to protect their own jobs. Otherwise, because of the lack of fires (better preventive inspections, smoke alarms, sprinkler systems) there would undoubtedly be layoffs.
Agreed, the SSFD didn't need to be the designated agency, but now it's probably grandfathered in, unfortunately.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Citizen Nancy said...

I'm back.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 9:52:

If Commissioner Dickworth made the decision, how come it was announced by Chief Cole?

If Dickworth was responsible for it but didn't want to announce it himself, why didn't he have Deputy Commissioner DUDla make the announcement?

Seems like neither Dickworth nor DUDla had anything to do with it. They were probably too busy on DWI patrol.

4:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Citizen Nancy,
How does your terse and bizarre response contribute to this discussion?

4:42 AM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

5:15,

It's funny you should mention the donated car. I was always wondering what happened to the muscle cars from drug seizures they used have? If there was ANY statement from DARE that was powerful from my perspective, it was the fact that they nabbed these cars from the convicted dealers. The message was 'you may make a fortune with drugs, you may drive a nice car because of them, but eventually we're going to take it all."

When I saw the donated car, my first impression was "we couldn't bust a drug dealer with nice wheels, so we had to get a sponsor who now has an advertisement on a city-owned vehicle." That impression really didn't rub me the right way, although I'm sure the officer and business that made it happen had the best intentions in mind. I guess my point is that it seems emblematic of the vestigial nature of the DARE program.

4:21 and 9:52,

Per both points, this is how it went: Cole told the Saratogian earlier this month that he was going to need to make some tough cuts, including the DARE program. Last week at some point, those cuts were approved by the commissioner and then announced jointly during a DBA meeting, which was subsequently realized by the media and then publicized widely Thursday.

I would be willing to bet a small fortune that neither Cole nor Wirth would have axed the program absent the budget crunch. The program survived 21 years of conservative and liberal spenders in the PS department. Economic factors necessitated it this time around. Both leaders are due a small degree of credit for REALIZING the value of this program --or lack thereof -- and then slating it for one of the first to be terminated.

Again, if there is credit to be given, it's to Chief Moore for not cutting the program three or four years ago, when it was clear DPS would need to cut spending. And by credit, we're talking the type of credit one gets for defaulting on a mortgage, maxing out three credit cards and then having a leased vehicle repossessed.

7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was the budget for the Saratoga Springs D.A.R.E. program ?

5:00 PM  
Anonymous The Bookkeeper said...

Anything greater than ZERO counts as a waste of money.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has Public Safety suddenly DARED to take a proactive stance to requests for greater enforcement? Most people have recognized that the use of speed detection radar on the entry corridors has become more prevalent during the last month. The posted 30 miles per hour on these residential roads seems reasonable for the residents who live alongside them, but most people driving into town on Union Avenue and Washington Street have recently been introduced to some of our finest because these leadfoots normally cruise in at 45-50 mph. Yesterday, after twenty-three years of apparent benign unenforcement, three owners of vehicles flouting the posted “no-parking” signs at Yaddo’s gateway received their meritorious awards for illegal parking. Whether the reason for this action is the new administrative management or about seeking additional revenue or about realizing that enforcement however ‘unacceptable’ it may seem when one sees flashing lights behind them– it is part of the job that we expect from our officers, it is nonetheless a healthy presence.

Now imagine while still maintaining vigilance for expired inspection stickers, that occasional enforcement of illegal cell phone use while driving, seat belt compliance laws and “failure to come to a complete stop at an intersection before turning” could be next. Moreover, taking a harder look at the illegal truck routing that goes through the city would be awesome and certainly appreciated. Random inspection of truck manifests could discourage shorts cuts by transports with no business in the city and those special dimension 53-foot long trailers who have no reason to be on Broadway or Washington would be forced to begin staying on their DOT assigned roadways.

However, while warnings and other means of personal discretion are still available to our attending officers, we do have them out there for a reason – just don’t expect mercy by explaining that your radar detector wasn’t plugged in or that you were distracted by an important text call or that you were looking for the rolling open beer can that fell on the floor.

4:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath waiting for Commissioner Dickworth and Deputy Commissioner DUDla to crack down on DWI,

1:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:21 AM - Just keep reading the blotter. BTW You sound like you have a bit of a problem? We know who you are.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Ben lives on said...

if they crack down on DWI who will be left to drive City Trucks?

5:10 AM  
Anonymous Former SEMS Adm said...

DWI?! DUDla?!?! Nooo... Say it ain't so!! Has anyone seen him sober?!
And here's another tidbit: isn't it ironic that SSPD "found the money" to hire back 3 of the 6 police officers layed off on January 1?! Is that possible because DUDla's son-in-law is a city cop?! Hmmmmm.... Yet, not one of the SSFD employees layed off have heard so much as a cricket.

And let's also briefly address the SSFD paramedic program: they got into the EMS business because SEMS wasn't answering calls. SSFD became a paramedic agency because SEMS was mutual aiding over 25% of it's calls. And yes, this number is accurate because I was the person who kept track of all the calls for SEMS, while an employee there.... Nothing like waiting for an ambulance from another town because the volunteer management was too lazy/incompetent to fulfill the needs of the constiuants.

So, let's leave the kool-aid in the fridge, kids.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow, citizens think that enforcement of laws, and the fines that are paid for breaking those laws, equal the cost of providing police protection. This thinking couldn't be farther from the truth.

There are many facets to police work. For example, take some recent trips made by our department. Trips are made on a regular basis, usually by two police officers, to pick up prisoners in other states, and to pick up evidence in other states/cities.

This involves meals, hotel rooms, tolls, and usually a lot of overtime. Overtime for the officers taking the trip, and overtime for officers to cover their positions while they are away.

Is anyone looking into ways to save on these expenses? Perhaps some mutual agreement between the respective cities could be worked out instead of Saratoga Springs taxpayers footing the entire bill?

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon: 10:27: “… citizens think that enforcement of laws, and the fines that are paid for breaking those laws, equal the cost of providing police protection.”

I’m not sure that’s what the residents are saying when they refer to enforcement. Anon 4:38 reflects what many citizens have been puzzled by for some time. The enforcement of laws certainly will deter those who break them and while the fines recovered will certainly not pay for the services required by the community of its police officers, it will contribute to them.

I’m sure the responsibilities you have expressed are only a small part of the many that you (assuming you are a member of the SSPD) have sworn to uphold and all residents can appreciate that. We do pay taxes. It has just become a condition of reality as to how much we can be expected to pay. This is not a large city. It appears that under new management, there may be a new beginning for better relations between our police department and the residents – and at least for now, it could be said that the PWD has a lot of work to do.

As for Anon 12:13: We got that song – heard it before – not a big hit.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:13
Are you serious?

You say SSFD "got into the EMS business because SEMS wasn't answering calls"??????

The reason, and the ONLY reason, SSFD got into the EMS business, is because they snookered the city into believing they were the only personnel qualified to do the job.

In reality, it was for their job protection, complete with all the bennies that the SSFD already had in their contract. Fewer calls-for-service might have caused the city to think about cutting the force -- and they finally did.

Do SEMS people get the privilege of 207A protection? No. (Don't know about 207A? Well, you are in for an awakening. Probably the most abused law in the land.)
Do SEMS people get to work 24 hour days, and then get two days off? No.
Check it out. It sounds like you had a bad experience, but get the facts straight....not slanted.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 10:42 AM - Since we're still DARING to be included on this blog topic thread, bear in mind that older less safe fire resistant buildings haven't increased. On the contrary, more sprinklered and better fire resistant constructed buildings make up the bulk of all new construction during the last 20 years. So, where does that leave our fire fighting forces? A current thinking that all buildings be sprinklered – would take care of dealing with most structure fires in the City and would question the need for fire protection manpower in the future. Is that what you are saying?

Firefighters are important to this community but unfortunately for those who would wish to expand and create duplicitous services so as to insure their personal longevity (at least through to retirement) then we thinks that PS has to reinvent itself in ways that does not make work to be at work. The EMT training was part of a thinking to create a need for many more employees, which if required could be understood, but it just ain’t so. As far as chaperoning SEMS with the full compliment of truck and crew to every senior’s health line response for assistance (over 1000 runs annually) – someone has to ask, “Is this necessary and effective use of equipment and manpower?”

Responders (and respondees) need good dispatching (that is not self-serving) – period. Assessment of required personnel for every emergency is critical – no less than required and certainly not more.

6:36 AM  
Blogger jon said...

Hey,

I'm starting a local political blog, The Adirondack Socialist, and was hoping you might add it to your links page. It would be a great help. Thanks for considering it.

Jon Hoch
Here's the link:
http://adksocialist.wordpress.com/

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter told me that she learned more about drugs in DARE classes than she learned from her friends at school and in college. Where to buy them, what they looked like, what they did to you....almost like an advertisement for drugs. But she did like the cop...he told the kids all about his kitten.

10:54 AM  

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