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Mark Chase recently was recognized as the D.A.R.E. Law Enforcement Executive of the Year.

Gervais Police Chief Mark Chase was puzzled by a recent phone call he received from the regional director of the D.A.R.E. program, asking him if he had spoken with City Manager Susie Marston.COURTESY PHOTO: SUSIE MARSTON - Gervais Police Chief Mark Chase

"My first thought was 'Why would the D.A.R.E. regional director ask me about my city manager?" Chase said. "He explained that he wanted to move forward doing a video for our video conference."

What Chase hadn't realized, and what Marston kept as a surprise, was that the chief had been named this year's D.A.R.E. Law Enforcement Executive of the Year. The award was formally presented during a July 13 D.A.R.E. videoconference.

Chase was floored.

"I was just thrilled, I was honored, and I was extremely humbled to get this international award," Chase said. "You do things over the course of your career, and it's very special and humbling to receive an award for something I've been passionate about for so many years."

Chase dedicated the award to his late father, John Chase, and his wife, Julie. His father was an elementary school teacher in Dallas, where Mark Chase grew up, and provided the future law-enforcement officer with his first opportunity to present to a fifth grade class information on making good decisions.

Mark and Julie Chase have been married for 32 years.

"For me, a big part of being successful in life is owed to having an amazing wife who supported and encouraged me to help kids and allowed me a lot of flexibility to do that," Chase said.

D.A.R.E. America Western Regional Director Dennis Osborn said Chase's active advocacy for the program has been instrumental in its growth and successes.

"I've met Mark several times, and he's just such a nice man and great supporter of what we do," Osborn said. "He's been huge for D.A.R.E. in Oregon; not just an advocate, but a very vocal advocate. If you have a chief, sheriff or law-enforcement leader who likes the program but doesn't talk about it, that's one thing. Mark is an outspoken advocate."

Osborn also cited Chase's work in ensuring that training for the program flourished in the Pacific Northwest. He also accommodated Osborn to address the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police in Bend earlier this year, many of whom approached the director later not realizing that D.A.R.E. was still active and thriving.

Early prevention roots

Chase was a high school senior when he first took a Citizens Academy course offered at Dallas City Hall. It impacted him greatly, and he began formulating the thought process of how important prevention is. He became part of an award-winning neighborhood watch and crime prevention program, while initiating the first steps of what eventually would become a decades-long career in law enforcement.

Over time, Chase became a firm advocate of the D.A.R.E. program, and in more recent years implemented it in Gervais. He noted that the program has been around for nearly four decades, and he regards it as the preeminent substance-abuse prevention program — validated and evidence based. D.A.R.E. is used in more than 50 countries worldwide, and it's been adjusted significantly over time to meet changing needs.

"I was interested in teaching it when I started my career in the '80s," Chase said, elaborating on the program's initial development through the Los Angeles Police Department. "I saw that it was important for law enforcement to provide prevention programs.

"D.A.R.E. has had its (detractors), but they have revised it all along. There are health experts and behavior experts and even a scientific advisory board as part of it. They've tailored the lessons to be evidence based and effective."

Osborn acknowledged that much of the earlier models of D.A.R.E. had limited success rates, but adjustments and fine-tuning over time have resulted in much stronger working models.

The chief emphasizes those adjustments as crucial, noting that in today's web-infused world, young people encounter a plethora of challenges that did not exist a generation or two ago.

Recognition in Gervais

The nomination of Chase for the D.A.R.E. recognition was a collaborative one that included the city of Gervais, Gervais School District and members of the chief's department. The nominating document noted that Chase's career with multiple police departments has been exemplary, but it is "what he has done for D.A.R.E. that warrants praise and recognition."

The nomination continued: "Chase has championed the D.A.R.E. program throughout our state. When a local police department was cutting the program, he saw an opportunity to bring D.A.R.E. to our community. Mark actively recruited an experienced D.A.R.E. officer for the job and didn't stop there. Chief Chase also ensured his D.A.R.E. officer would be the state D.A.R.E. training coordinator."

Gervais coordinates the program's training statewide, while also instilling the lessons in the community's local schools.

"Chief Mark Chase distinguished himself through the statewide promotion of D.A.R.E. officer training," the nomination noted. "The Gervais Police Department co-hosted this class at the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training. Last year the police academy campus closed due to COVID-19. Mark ensured training would continue by hosting another DOT at a nearby hotel."

Grass-roots goals

For Chase, the overarching aim settles right down into the community, and the D.A.R.E. program is a principal tool to that end — in Gervais and anywhere else it is employed.

"There is so much discussion about police legitimacy, trust and positive community relationships, and that's where D.A.R.E. is so important: It touches on all of those areas," Chase said. "D.A.R.E. builds trust, positive community relationships and legitimacy. It's a positive option for (police) to institute in their departments."

In Gervais the program has been in place for three years, which Chase said means that all middle school students now have familiarity with it from the elementary school level, and that education will ultimately carry over to the high school level, providing a firm basis from which students can make positive, productive decisions.

Despite the effective effort locally and statewide with the program, Chase is still flabbergasted that he would be honored.

"There are so many sheriffs and many police chiefs across the U.S. who do a phenomenal job teaching D.A.R.E. in their communities," Chase said, pointing out last year's Law Enforcement Executive of the Year awardee, Sheriff David Beth of Kenosha County, Wisconsin.

"It started in 1983, and it's never gone away (although) it's definitely ebbed and flowed," Osborn said of D.A.R.E., citing a recent University of North Carolina at Greensboro study that attests to its current effectiveness. "It's at its peak right now, and that is (crucial) because of what has happened with drug abuse."

The dedication of modest local — yet vocal — advocates like Chase is a large reason.

About D.A.R.E.

Facing unparalleled drug abuse among youth in the 1970s and early 1980s, visionary Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates and the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1983 launched an unprecedented and innovative substance abuse prevention education program — Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

With each passing year, D.A.R.E.'s success was seen in classrooms and homes leading to rapid growth and expansion. As each decade passed and success increased, the challenges facing children and families also grew. Today, through the leadership of D.A.R.E.'s dedicated board of directors, and the tireless commitment and hard work of tens of thousands of officers and educators throughout America and around the globe, D.A.R.E strives each day to achieve its vital mission … to fulfill a vision.

There are numerous reasons for D.A.R.E.'s success. Its unparalleled delivery system using law enforcement officers as instructors and the fact that it was the first program of its kind anywhere in the world have individually and collectively played a critical role in D.A.R.E.'s growth and expansion.

However, to remain relevant, effective and impactful requires much more … it requires the critical review and substantive contributions of highly respected experts in the field of education, science and law enforcement. And it also needs the intelligent comments and recommendations of the program's audience — schoolchildren. To this end, several years ago D.A.R.E. established key Advisory Committees, the members of which are actively engaged in the development and implementation of virtually all aspects of the D.A.R.E. program.

— D.A.R.E. America

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