News Release: Wakulla County Sheriff's Office
August 4, 2014
Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Ray Johnson won first place in the category of Outstanding Dedication to DUI Enforcement in the Small/Rural Agency category at the 2014 MADD Florida State Law Enforcement Recognition awards program.
Sgt. Johnson was honored Aug.1 by the Florida Mothers Against Drug Driving organization at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale.
Sgt. Johnson has been dedicated to protecting Wakulla County young people for many years. His dedication to the protection of youth made him an obvious choice to be a School Resource Officer. He has served as an SRO at both the high school and middle school levels. As a 20 year veteran of the agency, his recognition was something that was long overdue.
Sgt. Johnson has been involved in teaching elementary school fifth graders Substance Abuse Violence Education (SAVE) curriculum which includes a large segment on the importance of avoiding dangerous illegal drugs, underage drinking and alcohol abuse.
Sgt. Johnson was also active in the implementation of Project Graduation which is a pre-graduation party for high school seniors. The party raises awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving and asks students to sign a pledge that they will avoid those dangers during their final hours of high school.
Sgt. Johnson has a strong belief that the powerful message delivered to fifth graders lays the groundwork to keep students from abusing alcohol and helps reduce the number of potential motorists who might end up on our roads operating a motor vehicle under the influence.
His love and appreciation for the students is obvious as students flock to him when he is involved in social activities as well as in the teaching environment. At the SAVE graduation ceremony it is obvious that the students have a great love for Sgt. Johnson as he presents the program certificates, selects essay winners and makes the students take their SAVE oath.
But Sgt. Johnson’s dedication to keeping Wakulla County roads safe is not limited to his work with students at the high school and middle school level.
Sgt. Johnson worked multiple details involving DUI enforcement and he has also worked Party Patrol where deputies handle details involving underage drinking.
He has worked to keep students safe through the high school seat belt check where students only get to leave the student parking area after they show Sgt. Johnson on the way out that they are buckled in before hitting the highway.
Sgt. Johnson was one of the deputies responsible for teaching nearly a dozen Wakulla High School students the Teen Driver Challenge. The program focused on training students to better handle a motor vehicle in an obstacle course but it also featured a section on the impacts of alcohol and drugs on driving and reaction time. The students also took turns taking a ride in the “Convincer” which was on loan from the Florida Sheriff’s Association and allows an individual to climb into a seat and experience the impact of a low speed traffic crash. The bump of the convincer at the end of the track gives students a jolt even though it is simulating a crash at less than 10 miles per hour.
One of the most important aspects about being a School Resource Officer relates to also being a mentor. Sgt. Johnson believes that helping the students make the correct decisions is a key to their growth as a person. He counsels students in both alcohol and drug abuse issues on a regular basis.
A student who got into trouble as a freshman recently thanked Sgt. Johnson for his assistance while a student. The student ended up correcting his freshman mistake and graduated from Wakulla High School without ever getting into trouble again.
Sgt. Johnson also helped two students who made poor choices early in their high school career by recommending them for entrance into the military. The students were able to correct their behavior after being counseled by the school resource officer and successfully made their entry into the military.
“My goal is to open their eyes to the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse and get them to correct the behavior,” said Sgt. Johnson. “The reward comes later when the student is impacted by the message and comes back later and thanks me for helping them out.”
Students have a good attitude about being checked for seat belt wearing compliance because they understand the sheriff’s office doesn’t want anything bad to happen to the students on the road. Students have also shown their appreciation for the school resource officer making them wear seat belts a priority so it becomes a natural habit for the rest of their lives.
Not all of Sgt. Johnson’s messages are given in formal curriculum. Through an agreement with the school principals he has taken time to talk to students in the middle school and high school grades about the importance of doing the right thing and making the best decisions possible.
Sgt. Johnson has also established a rapport with the students that continues on after the students leave the school system. Many students appreciate the foundation that was set in place when they were in elementary school.
MADD Florida presented Sgt. Johnson with a plaque for the agency which recognizes “Excellence in Agency DUI Enforcement.” He also received a plaque, “For your performance and dedication to DUI enforcement in support of MADD’s mission.”