Idaho Falls, ID – The Idaho Falls Police Department is temporarily suspending involvement in the D.A.R.E. program until officers can be hired and trained to fill 14 open positions. Officers who were previously assigned to teach D.A.R.E are being assigned to patrol and training duties.
“With such a significant number of officer openings, the department simply doesn’t have the resources to staff the drug education program at this time,” Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson explained. “This decision is difficult because we value the D.A.R.E. program and our officers really enjoy teaching the curriculum.”
The number of officer vacancies in the department climbed to a total of 10 after four veteran police officers retired this summer. The Idaho Falls City Council tentatively has authorized four new sworn officer positions in the 2018-2019 budget proposal. Once the department hires the new officers, there is a lengthy training process before they can begin their policing duties.
Each new officer hired requires certification at the Idaho P.O.S.T. Academy and field operations training, which takes several months. During that time the department will be prioritizing the city’s most important public safety needs. Chief Johnson added that many employees already are working overtime to meet those needs.
“The safety and security of our city is our top priority,” said Chief Johnson. “Once we are able to get our staffing levels back up, we may be able to re-engage in the D.A.R.E program. It is important for us, for our kids and for our community.” Chief Johnson also emphasized that while D.A.R.E. will be impacted this coming year, the staffing shortages will not impact the department’s presence within the schools.
“While we may not be able to offer the D.A.R.E. program this year, city schools and the safety of our children remains a main priority for us,” he said. “Two IFPD school resource officers will remain in the schools and funding for an additional SRO officer is included in the 2018-19 city budget proposal. We will also be continuing with Blue in the School and other programs aimed at fostering positive and trust-based relationships between offers and students.”
Police leaders are working with Idaho Falls School District 91 officials and the D.A.R.E. Board of Directors to ensure a smooth transition to the change and Idaho Falls Police will continue to assist the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office with D.A.R.E. graduations and other events as needed.