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D.A.R.E.-ing to Care

PHOTOS & STORY by Katharine Lotze
Originally published by the Mountain Workshops 2013, Owensboro, KY

Officer Sean Schlachter hardly ever uses his “Officer of the Year” parking spot in the lot at the Owensboro Police Department.

“I’m just not into the notoriety of things,” he says. “That’s just not my style.”

Officer Sean, as he’s affectionately known because of his tough-to-pronounce last name, won “Officer of the Year” in June 2013. The award came as a big surprise. He works as one of the department’s D.A.R.E. officers. D.A.R.E. is a national organization with a mission to teach students good decision-making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives.

“I was like OK — it’s cool to be nominated, but it’s going to go to a patrol officer,” he says. He set a precedent with his win, and it was in no small part due to his close relationship with the students he teaches.

“He loves working with the kids,” says Sgt. Richard Glenn, Sean’s immediate supervisor. “It’s just a culmination of everything he’s done so well for years.”

He celebrated his 17th year as an officer in Owensboro in October 2013 and says he always knew he wanted a law enforcement career.

He works more as a public relations officer for the department than a patrol officer. Besides the D.A.R.E. program, he and his partner often are asked to speak to community groups about safety and police matters.

“We’re kind of the jack-of-all trades,” he says.

Officer Sean spends 30 hours a week in classrooms throughout Daviess County. On his busiest days, he teaches eight classes.

“They’re not angels by any means, but they’re great kids,” he says.

And the kids think he’s pretty great, too.

When they catch sight of him in the hallway or the door of their classroom, their faces light up.

“I think you’re doing a good job of teaching kids safety,” Terrance Meyer, 7, tells Officer Sean during an after-school visit to Newton Parrish Elementary.

Many students grow up with him teaching their D.A.R.E. classes in the odd numbered grades, and Character Counts, a similar program, in the even years.

“Our kids think of police officers as intimidating, but he’s approachable,” says Amy Bellamy, a seventh-grade language arts teacher at Owensboro Middle School. “Not like they’d expect a police officer to be.”