Sheriff Judd has always been a support of school-based programs involving law enforcement officers. As a result, the Polk County Sheriff's Office in concert with the Polk County School Board, implemented the D.A.R.E. program for the elementary students in 1989. This program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, was created in Los Angeles, California in 1987. D.A.R.E.'s focus is to educate children about the dangers associated with substance abuse. For five years, deputy sheriffs taught D.A.R.E. to many fifth gradres throughout Polk County. D.A.R.E. served as the cornerstone in educating our youth to "Just Say No" to drugs. Unfortunately, drugs were not the only problem present in our schools; violence was on the increase.
In 1994, S.A.V.E., Substance Abuse and Violence Education was created by the Polk County Sheriff's Office. This ten-week program is designed not only to address the issue of substance abuse, but also other problems our youth encounter, such as violence, gang resistance, and cultural diversity. Since School Resource Deputies were assigned to the middle and senior high schools in the unincorporated areas of Polk County, the decision was made to present S.A.V.E. to the entry-level of middle schools which is sixth graders. This would serve two fold. In addition to teaching S.A.V.E., deputy sheriffs would also be available at the middle schools to investigate criminal offenses and counsel with students and parents.
Thirty-three law enforcement officers initially received the specialized training on the S.A.V.E. program curriculum. In addition to deputy sheriffs from the Sheriff's Office, several other local law enforcement agencies participated. The program eventually expanded outside Polk County with several agencies receiving instructor training. S.A.V.E. was deemed an exemplary program by C.A.L.E.A. (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.) when the Polk County Sheriff's Office received National Accreditation status in November 1994. During the first semester of application, more than 750 students successfully completed the program; 4,857 students benefited from the S.A.V.E. program during the 1995/96 school year.
The S.A.V.E. program has developed a prestigious reputation for being not only professional, but educational as well. The boundaries are unlimited as to the endless possibilities of such a dynamic program. It takes a very special person to be a S.A.V.E. instructor. Being committed is important, but these is something else. Just ask any S.A.V.E. instructor and they will tell you, "The kids, the kids are the reason why."
You may call the School Resource Office at 863-519-8067, for more information.
S.A.V.E. Flags Carry Message Into Space
On Thursday, April 16, 1998, six Polk County Sheriff's Office SAVE flags carried an anti-drug and anti-violence message into outer space aboard the space shuttle Columbia. Officials hope the space-traveling flags will attract the attention of students, driving home the SAVE message and enhancing the program, according to SAVE instructor William Simpkins.
Deputy Simpkins spearheaded the space project and enlisted the assistance of Senator Connie Mack in arranging the flight with NASA. Senator Mack was instrumental in arranging the space travel project, and gaining NASA approval for the flags' flight aboard the shuttle at no cost to the Sheriff's Office.
The six flags launched into space aboard Columbia Shuttle Mission STS 90 from Kennedy Space Center. In preparation for the 16-day space journey, the flags were shipped to Johnson Space Center in Texas, where they were vacuum-packed and sealed in special plastic bags. The flags were then stored in duffle bags and shipped back to Florida, where they were placed in a special compartment underneath the cabin of the space shuttle prior to launch.
Upon return to earth, the smaller flags will be presented for display to the principals of middle schools in which the SAVE program is taught by Sheriff's Office instructors. The larger flag will be on display at the Sheriff's Office Operations Center in Bartow.
S.A.V.E. Participating Agencies