An Ounce of Prevention 3

Draper’s DARE Officer aims to help kids make smart decisions

While working in the overcrowded 10-story Los Angeles Twin Towers Correctional Facility, Police Officer Rulon Green witnessed humanity at its worst. As part of the emergency response team, he’d be the first to arrive during a riot, wearing a gas mask and helping to triage the wounded. He called it akin to stepping into a war zone.

It was while working here that he noticed a common denominator among the gang members, drug dealers, thieves and murderers.

“People aren’t ashamed to tell you why they are in jail. They’ll tell you everything that led up to their incarceration. Drug and alcohol abuse were at the root of their problem,” he recalls.

After years spent seeing firsthand how drugs, alcohol and violence destroyed people’s lives, their families’ lives and their communities, Green sought to focus on substance abuse prevention because, he says, arresting the same people each week wasn’t making the difference in what he wanted to accomplish as a police officer. When the opportunity arose to return to his home state and serve as a DARE officer in Draper, he “jumped at it.”

“It is something I am passionate about,” he says of DARE. “It is a program that is vital to the community and to our youth.”

DARE, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is a nationwide program with the objective to empower students to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors by teaching them good decision-making skills.

Green—now in his 10th year as a police officer and his first year as Draper’s DARE/school resource officer—says the experience has changed him. He’s evolved from a cop handling the aftermath of prison riots and drive-by shootings in East LA to one walking into Draper’s classrooms with a stuffed animal ready to crack jokes, teach skits, and tell stories that relate to drug and bullying prevention.

“Not a lot of people get to have that type of experience,” he says. “I’ve evolved into this person I never thought I’d be. I am very happy with who I have become.”

Keeping up the energy necessary to visit six Draper elementary schools and engage fifth graders—who Green describes as “really sharp kids” —is challenging.

“I’ve never been so nervous in my life to go in front of these kids and teach them,” he recalls of his first few classroom experiences. “I’ve had people with guns or knives on them, and it didn’t really faze me. But to go in and teach a class full of kids…It isn’t easy. My heart goes out to teachers who do this everyday.”

Luckily, Green immediately gets kids’ attention with funny videos of his pet pig, Marilyn.

“The kids perk up,” he says when they see her on his smartphone. “I cannot go into one class without someone asking, ‘How’s your pig?’”

Marilyn, unfortunately, is too large to make a classroom appearance.

“We were told she was a miniature pig and she’d only be 35 pounds,” Green recalls about when he and his wife, Allison, got her as a 11-pound piglet.

But she grew. Now she’s a 200-pound pet who is house-trained and sleeps on a Great Dane dog bed.

“I think of her as a gigantic housecat,” he says. “She likes to lay around.”

Green says he loves to see students’ excitement for the DARE program and is impressed by their ability to retain the information. “I can see a difference in the kids from day one to graduation (from DARE)…The kids leave the program with knowledge and confidence. You can’t put a price on that type of experience.”

There’s something else Green hopes to impart on his students, another common denominator he noticed back at the LA Correctional Facility—this one positive. When inmates did turn their lives around, they always did so with the support of a mentor or a loved one. He tells his DARE students that police officers, teachers and parents are there to support them should they need help.

As for himself, Green says his support system comes from his wife and the Draper City Police Department. “Put whatever it is in front of me,” he says, “because I know I have their backing.”