The HIDTA initiative includes SROs involved in the county’s Law Enforcement Against Drugs program. SROs are responsible for safety and crime prevention in public schools.
Garrison and Lay were the first two officers in Tennessee to be certified with LEAD, a program that teaches 5th-graders in every Anderson County elementary school the dangers of drug use.
Lay is currently the Tennessee administrator for the program and oversees all training in Tennessee.
Pence, according to Lay, was very supportive of local law enforcement.
“...all of you involved in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program have played a critical role in the fight against drug trafficking,” Pence told the law enforcement officers in attendance, according to a transcript made available by the White House. “You target places where the drug crisis is at its worst; the counties where the overwhelming majority of illegal narcotics are smuggled into our country and into our communities. You literally are on the frontlines in the war against illegal drug abuse and addiction.”
They were there with 18 others representing LEAD from Florida, New Jersey and New Hampshire.
The program, according to Lay, is very effective, and it’s something she’s passionate about. LEAD is a 10-week program that offers kids hands-on experience.
“The kids seem to really enjoy it,” said Garrison. “We feel like teaching 5th-grade is best.”
Students get to get out of their seats, perform short skits and practice standing up to peer pressure. They also practice setting goals, making good decisions, and study the effects of marijuana, alcohol, nicotine.
“We’ve seen a lot of success. Their knowledge increases 19-percent after this program,” said Lay. “Those are really good stats.”
The success of the program is what scored them an invitation to hear Pence.
“We sat about 10-feet from the podium,” said Garrison. “To hear how much he supports law enforcement was amazing. Being able to have our chief and our sheriff with us was a huge honor for us as well.”
Anderson County Schools public information officer Ryan Sutton said that the county’s SROs build positive relationships between police and students.
“Our SROs make sure that to the kids, police aren’t scary,” he said. “The group of SROs we have in this county go above and beyond. They are an exceptional group of people.”
Lay and Garrison both visit all the schools in their capacity as SROs. There are 10 SROs total and 17 schools. Lay has a K9, Al, that travels with her.
Garrison has been in law enforcement for 16 years and has worked with children for 13, while Lay has been in law enforcement for 18 years and has worked with kids for 11.