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EX-DARE OFFICER FAILED TO FOLLOW OWN TEACHINGS

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Pubdate: Sat, 17 Jun 2000
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Contact: letters@uniontrib.com
Address: PO Box 120191, San Diego, CA, 92112-0191
Fax: (619) 293-1440
Website: The San Diego Union-Tribune - San Diego, California & National News
Forum: http://www.uniontrib.com/cgi-bin/WebX
Author: Kelly Thornton, Staff Writer

EX-DARE OFFICER FAILED TO FOLLOW OWN TEACHINGS

Linda Hearn knew how to speak to children.

When Hearn warned them about the dangers of drugs, she seemed to understand the
temptations and peer pressure they faced. So popular was she among students that they
would ask impatiently: When is Deputy Hearn coming back?

Her style of teaching anti-drug classes in East County school districts earned her the coveted
nomination for statewide "DARE Officer of the Year" in 1999, making her one of seven
finalists chosen from some 1,000 contenders.

"The kids loved her here," said Stacy Coble, a secretary at Lakeview Elementary School in
Lakeside. "She would get at their level and just hang out with them. They would ask for her
all the time."

Yet even Hearn, who preached the anti-drug message to hundreds of youths, was not immune
to the temptations that face them.

She was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs Jan. 2. She
pleaded guilty to a lesser charge last week.

The California Highway Patrol officer who made the stop, a drug recognition expert, smelled
a strong odor of alcohol and burnt marijuana in her 1989 Chevy pickup, according to a CHP
report.

Hearn, 43, acknowledged to Officer Donald Coney that she had consumed two "mudslides," a
chocolatey alcoholic beverage, at a nearby friend's house, and was on her way home when
she was stopped at 8:30 p.m. on Los Coches Road in Lakeside. She did not pass a field
sobriety test, the report said.

Blood tests showed Hearn had a blood-alcohol level of 0.07, just below the legal limit of
0.08. However, the report noted the presence of a small amount of marijuana in her blood,
which may have increased her impairment.

Hearn, a 15-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of
alcohol-related reckless driving, a standard reduction for first-time offenders that is commonly
known as a "wet reckless" conviction, prosecutors said.

She was sentenced to three years of probation, fined $900 and ordered to complete an
alcohol-education program, according to court records.

The Sheriff's Department fired Hearn on May 24. She is appealing the termination to the
Civil Service Commission, said Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Ron Van Raaphorst.
Van Raaphorst declined further comment because personnel matters are confidential by law.

Hearn's attorney, Everett Bobbitt, also declined to comment.

Sheriff's Department sources said Hearn had been struggling with the long-term illness of a
family member. Her former colleagues declined to talk about the arrest and firing.

Hearn, who has worked in the Ramona, Cajon Valley, Mountain Empire and Lakeside Union
school districts, was replaced by another deputy.

School officials and parents expressed shock and sadness when told yesterday of Hearn's
arrest. They offered high praise for her accomplishments and sympathy for her plight.

"I know that she's affected a lot of lives in a very positive way," said Jan Sherman, whose
children graduated from the DARE program at Lakeside's Riverview Elementary. "My
daughters have learned a lot from her. Hopefully this is kind of a wake-up call for her. I only
wish her the best."

DARE, or Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is a program in which uniformed deputies or
officers teach weekly anti-drug lessons directly to schoolchildren in their classrooms.

"She was an effective DARE officer," said Diana Adams, Lakeside Middle School principal.
"I think she cared very much about the kids she interacted with. I'm just very sorry to hear
that. She's a very strong, very good lady. Something very tragic must have happened for her
to make those choices."

Steve Abercrombie, president of the California DARE Officers Association, said he was
disturbed by what he considers a precedent-setting situation that could damage the program.

"That's pretty disappointing," Abercrombie said. "The big thing is, I hope people realize
police officers are human. We all make mistakes. This is the first time I've heard of a DARE
officer having a situation like this. There are over 25,000 police officers teaching DARE. I
hope people don't judge all officers or the program based on one person."

Abercrombie said he met Hearn three years ago at a state DARE conference in San Diego.

"The times I've met her, I know she's done a lot of community work," he said. "She went
above and beyond the job description. She seemed very enthusiastic. It's really shocking. It
makes me wonder was there really more going on in her life to lead to something like this."
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