Cook County has a new D.A.R.E. officer

The State of Minnesota recently welcomed 24 new D.A.R.E. officers. Among them was Cook County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Hallberg, who is taking over the drug and alcohol resistance program from Chief Deputy Leif Lunde.

Chief Deputy Lunde has been the D.A.R.E. officer since 2001, taking over from Deputy Tim Weitz who started the D.A.R.E. program under the late Sheriff John Lyght. Lunde said he enjoyed his time as D.A.R.E. officer, but felt with the graduation of his son from the D.A.R.E. program last year it was a good time to step down.

Lunde is an impassioned advocate of the D.A.R.E. program, noting that there are some who say the program is not effective at stopping youth drug use. To that, Lunde replies, “You can find statistics to say just about anything.”

Lunde said he thinks D.A.R.E. is important not only for the drug resistence education, but because it provides an opportunity for police officers to interact with students in a positive way.

Hallberg, who completed two weeks of training on D.A.R.E.’s new curriculum has already begun teaching classes to third-graders at Sawtooth Elementary and Great Expectations School and fifth-graders at Sawtooth. Because of combined classes at Birch Grove Community School and Oshki Ogimaag, D.A.R.E. is taught there every other year, so next year he will be visiting those schools as well.

“That is another reason this was a good time to transition,” said Lunde.

Lunde said he was confident that Hallberg would be an excellent D.A.R.E. officer, not only because he is familiar with an updated curriculum but because he has a background in elementary education.

And, joked Lunde, he will have plenty of time on the job. Lunde pointed out that he stayed in the position until his children completed D.A.R.E. Hallberg has an “almost preschool” child and a first-grader so, Lunde said, “He has to wait until they finish D.A.R.E.”

Hallberg said he is looking forward to it. He too, is a D.A.R.E. advocate, noting that it is much more than drug resistance. The new curriculum’s design is based on the Socio-Emotional Learning Theory (SEL).  SEL identifies fundamental, basic skills and development processes needed for healthy development. The curriculum uses this theory to teach youth to control their impulses and think about risks and consequences which will guide them to healthy choices not only about drugs but across all parts of their lives. 

“It’s a decision-making model. It teaches them to talk about a problem and about thinking it through,” said Hallberg.