Despite Piscataway Township Police Department Detective Calvin Laughlin’s participation in over 150 S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) team raids, he has never shot anyone, he told Upper Elementary students at NuView Academy.
“Never shot anybody, and I hope I never have to,” said the 19-year veteran, who is teaching the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) curriculum in Mrs. Renee O’Callahan’s class once a week for six weeks.
“Most police never shoot anyone,” Det. Laughlin added.
“The so called bad cops represent about one percent of any police force, but that one percent exists whether it’s doctors, priests, teachers, or any profession,” he said.
Founded in 1983, the D.A.R.E. https://dare.org/about/ curriculum is taught by experienced officers who can answer “sophisticated questions about drugs, crime, and gangs,” and suggest strategies for dealing with unproductive peer pressure.
Another benefit of the program is connecting students with police officers in a safe, familiar school environment so students realize, as Det. Laughlin said, “police officers are just regular people like everyone else.”
Mrs. O’Callahan said her students were focused, engaged, and eager to ask questions and participate in the program.
“I am excited to see how the program develops and what my students learn from the experience,” she said.
Det. Laughlin told the class he had negative perceptions of police officers during his adolescence.
“I wasn’t the best kid, and I didn’t like cops,” he said.
However, as he matured, Det. Laughlin began to realize police officers were “regular people,” and ultimately pursued a law enforcement career because, “I’m a people person.”
Following a brief overview of D.A.R.E., Det. Laughlin sketched a drinking glass on the white board and drew a horizontal line across the middle of the illustration.
“How many think the glass is half empty, and how many think it’s half full?” he asked.
He seemed pleased when about 80 percent of the students raised their hands in support of the glass being half full.
“When you see the glass as half full, you’re a positive person, and by the time I’m finished here, we’ll have everyone raising their hand,” he said.
Det. Laughlin also spent time encouraging students to refrain from “put downs and mean comments” to others.
“If you don’t have anything good to say, keep the comments to yourself, because words hurt,” he said.
The NuView Academy is part of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ), which offers services for schools statewide, in addition to operating six schools in Middlesex County for student’s ages 3-21 with Autism spectrum disorders, multiple disabilities, and at-risk behaviors. The largest Educational Services Commission in New Jersey, the ESCNJ coordinates transportation services for over 12,000 students, and manages a 1,250 member Co-op Pricing System, the largest cooperative buying program in New Jersey.