The San Mateo Police Department Master Officer Program identifies an elite group of officers within our department who have earned the title “Master Officer” based not only on their yearly performance evaluations, but also on their years of experience and various expertise. SMPD is lucky to recognize our largest number of Master Officers ever in 2016, each of whom will be submitting a personal article on a topic of their choice, allowing our community the rare chance of getting to know the people behind the SMPD badge…
A G.R.E.A.T. Thing for San Mateo’s Sixth Graders
By SMPD Master Officer and School Resource Officer Steve Bennett
Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) is a curriculum consisting of 13 lessons, each lasting approximately one hour, taught by San Mateo PD’s School Resource Officers to all of the sixth grade students in the four middle schools during the school year. This allows your SMPD School Resource Officers the opportunity to reach out and interact face to face with over 1,000 of San Mateo’s sixth graders in their classrooms every year. While G.R.E.A.T. stands for Gang Resistance Education and Training, the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum seldom mentions gangs, gang activity, or even gang membership.
G.R.E.A.T. is an evidence-based national and international anti-gang, anti-drug, and anti-violence curriculum. G.R.E.A.T. was developed in the early 1990’s by a collaboration of teachers and law enforcement officers in Phoenix, Arizona to curb gang recruitment. The curriculum was quickly recognized as a success and the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Justice took the reins and further developed it. G.R.E.A.T. is taught by approximately 13,000 trained and certified sworn police officers to over 500,000 students each year in all 50 states and several other countries in several languages. I am both proud and honored to be one of those officers and that is not an assignment I take lightly. I am especially proud of our program right here at home that allows us to interact with the kids in our community when they truly need it most. On a national scale, G.R.E.A.T. has surpassed Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) as the go to anti-gang, anti-violence, and anti-drug curriculum. Police Officers like me attend a two-week training in order to learn the curriculum and effective teaching techniques so that we are best equipped to truly make a difference in the lives of our kids.
As I stated, G.R.E.A.T. rarely mentions gangs or drugs in the lessons. Instead, the lessons teach sixth graders decision making skills, effective communication skills, anger management techniques, refusal skills, anti-bullying tools, and peer pressure reactions. The lessons are extremely interactive and include a great deal of role playing, group collaboration, and reflection.
When the students complete the 13 lessons, they are honored with certificates and T-shirts at a graduation ceremony attended by parents, classmates, teachers, and officials from both the San Mateo Police Department and the San Mateo – Foster City School District. Teaching G.R.E.A.T. for me is especially fun and rewarding because before I became a police officer in San Mateo I was a teacher in both the Hayward Unified School District and the San Mateo – Foster City School District. Now having the chance to merge my two careers is especially rewarding. You too can learn more about G.R.E.A.T. by visiting: http://www.great-online.org
Working as a School Resource Officer, I see the results of G.R.E.A.T. firsthand on the school campuses every day, keeping our kids on track and in school with the tools they need to avoid the negative influences that may sprout up in their lives. The result is a corresponding decline in violent incidents and gang activity throughout our community. Furthermore, the students truly enjoy and appreciate the lessons and the positive interaction the have their police officers. G.R.E.A.T. has also become a way for your San Mateo PD to reach out to and recruit kids into our incredible Police Activities League (P.A.L.), further keeping them heading in the right direction, rather than going down the wrong path during these crucial years in their lives.
Officer Steve Bennett is a 14 year law enforcement veteran, wearing the San Mateo P.D. badge for the past 7 of those years. He is an avid swimmer, runner, and proud Dad of 2 active daughters who keep him active and on his toes FAR more than any swim or run…