RED BANK, NJ – TAPinto Red Bank will be offering a series of "Back of the House" articles profiling the men and women of the Red Bank Police Department.  Our purpose is to have the borough residents gain a personal sense of the law enforcement officer (LEO), behind the badge who keep us safe 24/7/365.

We incorporated this series as the first of a two-part articles on the drug situation in Red Bank.  In early December, five suspected drug overdoses left three people dead and shook the community.  This piece looks at the preventive measures that the RBPD is taking focusing on educating the children on the danger of drugs.

A second TAPinto Red Bank article will be published with responses from Chief Darren McConnell on the past and current drug situation, gang activity and the department’s response to the possible change in the marijuana law.

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We spoke with Patrolwoman Dawn Shields who is the RBPD’s Community Officer.  Officer Shields is also involved with the Monmouth County Growth Through Opportunity Program (GTO).  The GTO is a 16-week Cadet program that provides individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities with an opportunity to intern in a law enforcement agency to learn valuable job skills and contribute to the diversity and inclusivity of those agencies.

Locally, Shields has been working with Cadet Ivan Aguirre.  “Ivan has been working with us in the records division as part of Monmouth County's GTO program and been learning the needed skills to run our office, in addition to learning some of the responsibilities of the court.  Ivan has been successful in all tasks assigned to him and we enjoy working with him,” said Officer Shields.

TAP: Tell us about yourself, where you grew up and how long you’ve been a LEO with the Red Bank Police Department

Shields: I was Born in Pittsburg, Pa., growing up a military child mostly in the south and moved to NJ at age 13 when my father retired from the service.  I graduated from Middletown South in 1989, went to Brookdale College working towards early education.  I chose to go into the service and joined the US Army in 1991 and was Honorably Discharged in 1995 with four years inactive reserve left to serve.  I began working for the Red Bank Police Department as a dispatcher in 1996, and was hired as a Police Officer in 1997.  I've been working for Red Bank Police Dept for a total of 23 years.

TAP: Talk about the moment or circumstances in your life where you realized that you wanted to become a police officer

Shields: I originally wanted to teach or be a social worker, but realized I wanted to get to the kids before they were in the system, not after.  So, I figured this would be a good way.  When I was younger there was a Middletown Police officer who always stopped to talk to us about being out after curfew and different things.  I remember walking home from the Atlantic Highlands movie theater after curfew.  We walked along the highway because it was dark.  The officer saw us and stopped.  He asked why we were out after curfew again and when we explained he again talked to us about the curfew and why it was in place.  Instead of arresting us on the curfew violation. He drove us all home and dropped us off.  He was great and I will always remember that.

TAP: As the RBPD’s Community Officer, please explain what your role is in the community

Shields: Like my story, I try to do the same type things for the community.  I teach three programs in the schools and working on a 4th for high school.  I'm the domestic violence liaison officer so I work with the advocates of the 180, Turning Lives Around program.  I'm also the National Night Out Coordinator for the department.  I interact with the children in the community in other ways providing the Halloween safety talk, bullying when needed, bicycle safety, Internet safety.  I do the tours of the police dept upon request from the schools.

TAP: How do you interact with the largely Spanish population on Red Bank’s Westside?  What’s the response been?

Shields: I teach three programs within the Red Bank Schools.  I teach Too Good for Drugs for the 3rd grade and 5th grade.  I teach the G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program for the 6th grade.  I'm working to implement a program called Not Even Once for high school seniors.  Each program is meant to raise awareness and help the children have the facts and know how to make good choices. The 3rd, 5th and 6th  grade kids seem to love the classes and are actually learning from them.  Each program teaches more than just alcohol, drugs, and gang awareness.  The programs teach goal setting, decision making along with communication skills, managing emotions and more.  These programs work through interactive games role playing and different activities.  The children seem to enjoy the classes and are learning life lessons.

TAP: Being a LEO is a high stress job.  What outside activities do you do to relax?

Shields: This job can be stressful that is true, but life is also stressful sometimes.   My outlet is spending time with my family, reading and walking.   I used to go to the gym but unfortunately as a single parent to two children my day does not end when I leave the PD, and does not often leave time for me.  But I'm not complaining, it's worth it.

TAP: As a police officer, you see it all.  Tell us about your most exciting moment(s)

Shields: My most exciting moments, are not the best moments to talk about.  They are exciting because they are not the usual things to have happen and they are the things that make my heart race. The stress those calls put on a human being is taxing, but my coworkers have a way of easing the stress.

TAP: Your most gratifying moment(s)?

Shields: Anytime I help someone even in the smallest way.  Reading the essays the fifth grade kids write, showcasing what they learned, watching everyone have a great time at the National Night Out event.  Helping the community feel at ease calling the police for assistance with any problem they may have.

Officer Dawn Shields is one of the reasons that Red Bank is a great town now.  Her dedication in teaching and mentoring the younger kids is not only key in ensuring that they make the right choices, but beneficial to everyone in the community for the future.  

 When you see Officer Shields at a community event or in the schools, be sure to say “Thank you.”

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