As a member of the law enforcement community for 20 years, an emergency medical technician for six years and a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer for about 15 years, Harrell has taught thousands of fifth-graders since the early 1990s when DARE began in Bartow.
Today, Harrell is working with students again in middle schools as the curriculum evolves and new ground is able to be covered with seventh-graders. No matter how things change, though, one thing remains the same: his passion for law enforcement and the ability to help kids shape the future with the positive mindset to "just say no to drugs."
Name: Sgt. Richey Harrell
Occupation: DARE/Crime Prevention
Family: wife Tracy, sons Tanner and Joshua and daughter-in-law Jessica
City of residence: Cartersville
How did you become a DARE officer?
A: I have no idea. I started with the sheriff's office and I worked with the jail for a while. Then I went to the police academy. I knew that I always wanted to be a patrol officer, so when I went onto patrol I worked there for a while. Then I went to the DUI task force for a while and I was approached about going to investigations. I was there for about two years and I was approached to consider DARE. The other DARE officer explained it to me and the rest is history. It's one of those things that kinda found me, more or less. I still love law enforcement and I'm involved pretty heavily with our training program. It's like [I get] the best of both worlds.
What do you like about the DARE program?
A: I've been very satisfied with the DARE program. The thing I like about it is, it's a self-evaluating program, not so much from my level, but from the corporate level. We're constantly upgrading. As soon as a new curriculum comes in they basically organize another curriculum group because they don't want to change overnight [and] be haphazard. It's a continually evolving program.
What is the most common thing you are asked?
A: How do we get someone we love to stop smoking or drinking? That's a tough question to answer because pretty much there's nothing you can do. So I explain to them about addiction and how most of them want to stop.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a DARE officer?
A: I guess the most rewarding part of it is seeing when they complete the program and seeing them later in life and them coming up to you and saying, "I remember you; you taught me in fifth grade." A lot of times they'll bring out the card [they get] at graduation [and say], "I remember what you taught me and I'm glad that you did. It has made an impact on my life." That's a long-term thing. As far as the short term, what's most rewarding is just seeing the good.
What is a unique teaching method that you incorporate through DARE?
A: The lifestyle I choose to live. I believe that I don't need to be a hypocrite going into these schools and tell kids not to drink alcohol and then go out to dinner with my wife and have a margarita or a beer. To a lot of people, that's extreme. It may be, but I don't consider it that way. I ask my kids the same scenario and I teach them not to do that. [I ask them], "How would you feel if you and your family went out to dinner and saw me outside the restaurant smoking and going inside and having a beer?" And the majority say they wouldn't really like that a whole lot. I see kids [I teach] everywhere and I see former students all over the place. I take that into consideration.
If you weren't in law enforcement, what would you be doing?
A: If I couldn't do this or be an EMT, I'd do EMS just because I enjoy doing it. I've always been a people person because I've always liked helping people. I want to do something to help. It's neat being a cop and an EMT because I get to see both sides a lot of times. If I wasn't doing this, I would be doing something that I feel like would be helpful to other people.
What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
A: I'm a pretty plain guy. The difference in me now than what I used to be [is surprising]. I used to be real quiet and I don't want attention drawn to me, but it's the difference now. If someone had told me when I was younger that I'd be standing in front of auditoriums, [I wouldn't have believed them]. I was very shy and now I'm just about the complete opposite.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A: Home. There are so many jewels and cool places here, but honestly, my favorite place to be is at home. Home and church. I go to Atco Baptist. My wife and I have been there about 18 or 19 years. I am a deacon there and I teach Sunday School and work with the youth group.