BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - DARE officers from across the state are in Biloxi sharpening their skills so they can help your child avoid dangerous habits. And they're learning to tackle some new challenges in schools today.
The somber tune of taps and dramatic videos of officer-involved shootings served as reminders of the dangers DARE officers can face on the job.
"In school shootings, DARE officers will likely be the very first officer on the scene. They're going to have to stop this threat to save lives immediately," said Tim Rutledge, Director of the Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support in Mississippi.
About 50 DARE officers from across Mississippi, and several from Alabama, are learning how to cope with high-stress situations at a training conference at the Biloxi Civic Center. While DARE stands for "Drug Abuse Resistance Education," the curriculum constantly changes to deal with new challenges.
"The part of DARE is just educating them on the drugs and alcohol. The big thing that we've had is the e-cigarettes. So the more information that I can know about that, they don't understand how harmful certain things are," said Jaime Huffman.
Huffman is an officer with the Daphne Police Department who is training to become a DARE officer for the upcoming school year.
"We're seeing a lot of different trends the kids are having, such as we're dealing more with cyber-bullying or with social media issues. We're seeing a lot of good kids. They just need a little assistance in making better choices," said Mississippi DARE Training Coordinator Shari Hall.
Those choices have steered numerous children away from trouble and guided them on the path to success.
"Most kids don't smoke. Most kids don't drink alcohol anymore. I've had students who've said because of the DARE program, they were able to talk their parents to stop smoking. So that's a good thing," said Jackie Rhodes, Biloxi DARE Officer and incoming president of the Mississippi DARE Officers Association.
"I love the kids and you want to see that change. It feels great knowing that. We're not a silver bullet, but we hope that we're able to make a lot of impact," said Hall.
On Wednesday, former Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford will share his personal story about the devastating effects of drunk driving on families. The conference ends Thursday with a session on how to keep the students' attention in class, fundraisers, and an awards luncheon.