CROWN POINT — For the first time in 12 years, fifth graders haven't met with Sgt. Dave Benson to talk about good decision-making skills.
Although he's out of the classroom, he still roams the halls of Wheeler Middle School as the school resource officer.
Benson was recently named D.A.R.E. Indiana Officer of the Year.
"A few years back, probably about four or five years ago, I was nominated by Chief Land, my chief, but also the chief of Cedar Lake. And I got like second-runner up. The guy in Munster beat me out of it," Benson said. "So after coming that close, I'm like, 'Oh, well I'll never get that.' Then I got it, I was quite surprised, but very honored. It was so thoughtful of downstate to award me with that."
The honor, however, is a little bittersweet as Benson stepped down from his role as the city's D.A.R.E. officer to run for Crown Point Clerk-Treasurer.
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"Well, it's kind of sad in a way because we got a lot of kids. Over the past 12 years, I put over 600 students through the D.A.R.E. program (every year), not to mention the high school role models that I worked with that took part in the lessons.
"It's just like a big family. I know getting away from there and not being in the schools every day, I'm going to miss that part of it. But, I just feel like the city needs me to step up and fix the clerk's office — work in the clerk's office and get it going right."
Benson joined the police department in 1988, and Crown Point's D.A.R.E. program has been around since 1990.
Mayor David Uran said Benson has made an impact on the Crown Point community through his work with D.A.R.E., fostering valuable interactions and resonating with students, their families and teachers.
"We've had a great D.A.R.E. program for over 20 years, and it's really made a big impact in our community," Uran said while announcing the award. "Sgt. Benson has made it his own and elevated it — you talk to everyone of his predecessors and they would agree that Dave Benson has really become a model of what D.A.R.E. is in the views of today."