By Michelle Kann, The Yuma Sun
Yuma, Arizona -- Nearly 20 years ago, Yuma
Police Chief Robby Robinson made a plea to the
city council to fund a national anti-drug
Now he's asking the council to cut it.
"Years later, I'm here saying this program has
come to a point where I think it's a luxury that
I'm not sure we can afford anymore," Robinson
Since 1986, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education
program, commonly referred as DARE, has been
funded solely through the Yuma Police Department.
The department spends nearly $300,000 annually
for the salaries of four DARE police officers.
"The reality is that it's a big impact on my
budget," Robinson said. "When the officers are in
DARE, they are not really available to do
anything else. These officers are needed more in
the field than they are in the DARE program."
Robinson presented his recommendation to
eliminate DARE and transfer the officers to the
field services division for patrol and
investigations to the Yuma City Council during a
budget work session at City Hall recently. If
approved, the program would officially end in
"I'm not denying that the DARE program is a
popular program," Robinson said. "But my
observation is that when you read the daily
reports and the types of incidents we are having,
I feel that these officers are going to be far
more valuable to us and provide better services
as patrol officers."
Cutting DARE to fix budget woes isn't a new idea.
It's been happening across the country for
Last year, the Phoenix Police Department slashed
its DARE program in half because of money
concerns and the Maricopa County Sheriff's office
cut its DARE program after doubts about the
program's long-term impact.
Currently, the 10-week program is offered to Yuma
students at Crane Elementary School District and
Yuma Elementary School District 1.
Crane Elementary School District Superintendent
Gary Knox said Robinson told him about his budget
proposal months ago. When asked about the
proposed cut on Thursday, Knox sighed deeply.
"On one hand I hate to see it go," he said. "On
the other hand I appreciate the need to have the
sufficient amount of police officers on the
Since school districts don't fund the program,
it's tough for them to lobby for it. Plus there
has been debate in the educational research
community about its long-term impact, Knox
"I don't know the long-term effects of DARE on
our kids," he said. "We hope it's been a positive
program. We wouldn't have continued it if we
didn't think so."
Robinson doesn't know exactly how many students
have participated in DARE graduation through the
years. But in the first year, officers taught
2,000 students. Last year, it was 10,000.
"It has increased tremendously over the years," he said.
Councilwoman Ema Lea Shoop proposed eliminating
DARE at last year's budget work session.
"Due to the population growth, I think there is a
great need for them (patrol officers) in the
community," she said. "And there is not enough
money in the general fund to add officers and
Mayor Larry Nelson said he has always been a
strong supporter of DARE. But in the last year,
he has switched his position after talking with
officers about their challenges in providing the
"There is so much competition with the schools to
even get in the classes," Nelson said.
That's true, Knox said. The federal law, No Child
Left Behind, has limited the number of extras
elementary schools are able to do.
"Our focus has become very clear. It's to help
the kids succeed in reading, writing and math,"
Councilman Bobby Brooks said he hasn't made up his mind on the issue yet.
"I've always been in favor of the DARE program,"
he said. "I guess if it's OK with school
officials and we still have the nine resource
officers in place, I feel comfortable with
In contrast with the DARE program, school
districts pay the salaries of the resource
Knox said schools understand the difficult
decision the city needs to make.
"Sometimes we have to make tough decisions and
Robby and the city are faced with a tough
decision," he said.