New city DARE Officer Bryon Wells (left) is shown with his predecessor, Officer Greg Blackmore, who is retiring after 24 years in the DARE program and 30 years as a police officer. Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent
DAVE MOSIER/independent editor
The man whose name has become synonymous with the Van Wert DARE program, Officer Greg Blackmore, will be retiring from that position April 15 after 24 years in that position, and 30 years on the VWPD.
Blackmore, known by the many kids he has taught over the years as “Officer Greg”, was selected to fill the position in 1996 after another DARE officer quickly decided the job was not for him. It’s been a job he has loved, one he has done non-stop for the past two decades.
“I am there for (the kids) 24/7,” Officer Blackmore said, adding that he is one of the few VWPD officers who still lists his home telephone number in the phone book. “That’s one thing I’ve always prided myself on.”
Although that commitment has often resulted in calls from parents and troubled kids in the middle of the night, it has also given Blackmore a lot of satisfaction that he has been able to help a couple of generations of local youngsters.
The job has also grown over the years, with Officer Blackmore also the PD’s school liaison officer and, more recently, school safety officer as well. In addition, because the local DARE position is not considered a full-time position, he also pulls road shifts as well.
Blackmore noted that he and his brother, Jeff, both joined the VWPD on April 5, 1990. While Jeff retired in March 2019 after serving as a detective sergeant, Greg said he stayed on until now so he could see his grandson, Gavin, graduate from the DARE program — his last as DARE officer.
He has already had his two daughters and his son in the program.
Officer Blackmore said the program has evolved over the years, from a strictly alcohol-drug education program, to one that also teaches kids about self-esteem, bullying, and respect — both for others and for themselves — a trait the local DARE officer said is too often lacking in today’s youth.
“One thing I demand is respect: respect for me, respect for their parents and teachers, respect for their peers, and respect for themselves,” Blackmore said, adding that the increasing lack of respect is the biggest change he has seen in youngsters over the years, with some of the blame for that falling on parents who would rather be their kids’ best friend than their parents. “You can see the change from 30 years ago to today. We need to get respect back into our kids.”
Vaping is also a huge problem today among kids, while Officer Blackmore also stresses the importance of youngsters making positive friendships.
“The friends you have in life will determine what path you take in life,” he said, noting that kids who hang with kids who use alcohol and drugs will almost certainly become users themselves.
The longtime DARE officer said he is also appalled at how alcohol and tobacco companies have changed their products to appeal to young people, creating flavored alcohol drinks and flavored tobacco products that target the youth market.
One thing that has made his job easier, Blackmore said, is the support of the community for the local DARE program.
“I am so pleased with the way the community has stood behind us, and still does,” he stated, noting that, with much of the local DARE program funded through donations and fundraisers, such as the annual DARE Golf Outing, community support is crucial to the program’s success. “If it wasn’t for the community, how they’ve supported us, it wouldn’t have worked.”
Blackmore is currently working with his successor, Officer Bryon Wells, to prepare him for what he admits is a big job. Wells is also aware that he has big shoes to fill when it comes to taking over the city DARE program.
“He (Blackmore) makes it look easy, but there’s a lot to do,” Officer Wells said of the position.
Blackmore said Wells was “hand selected” for the position, noting he had to undergo interviews with school administrators and teachers, the PTO president, other parents, and even the county DARE officers before he was given the green light.
“He passed with flying colors,” Blackmore said of Wells, who then had to take DARE training in Columbus last fall before working with Blackmore to ensure a smooth transition.
It is a job that was probably inevitable for Wells, who noted he even job shadowed Officer Blackmore as a seventh-grader who was interested in becoming a police officer. The 14-year veteran said that, while he is a little nervous about all the responsibility that goes with the job, it’s one he believes strongly in.
Officer Wells, who has two young children, said he is looking forward to having them in DARE — something they are also excited about.
Blackmore has been helping make the transition a smooth one by drawing up a to-do list of important dates and events to help Wells with the minutiae of what can sometimes be a daunting job. One thing a DARE officer must be, Blackmore added, is organized.
“I thought when I started that I could keep everything up here,” Blackmore said, pointing to his head. “After I missed some commitments, I started putting things down on paper.”
He doesn’t expect Officer Wells to be a carbon copy of himself, though, noting the new DARE officer will need to tailor the program to fit his own personality and priorities. There will likely be similarities, especially since both men admit they share a similar wacky sense of humor.
Blackmore also said having the support of family members is crucial to being a successful DARE officer because the job is not 9 to 5. He noted he couldn’t have gone out on those calls at 2 in the morning if it weren’t for the support of his wife, Shari, and other family members.
Meanwhile, Blackmore said he is looking forward to having some time off, at least for a while, noting he plans to travel and watch his son, Lawson, play college baseball at Miami University this spring.
Officer Blackmore said that, while there are many aspects of the job he won’t miss after retiring, one thing he will miss is working with young people.
“The thing I will definitely miss is working with the kids,” he said.
Original article courtesy of The VW Independent