Officer Paul resigns
Paul Huard is better known as Officer Paul, a sure sign he’s not your average cop.
He’s funny, animated and his eyes often look as receptive as he is. Those eyes have helped him educate thousands of children about the dangers of drugs. Youth education became a calling for him after he brought the D.A.R.E. program to the South Lake Tahoe Police Department in 1985.
“He put his heart and soul into that program,” said Police Cmdr. Bart Owens, Huard’s good friend.
During the 13 years he spent with D.A.R.E., he made connections with a lot of people, many of them children.
“I injected a lot of humor. I got down to their level. I tried to be a kid myself with them,” Huard said. “I didn’t use any scare tactics. I gave them the straight scoop.”
Huard retired from the department Tuesday after 28 years. He was not sorry to be retiring, but said he will miss his co-workers and all the friends he’s made on the job.
A native of Toronto, Canada, he and his mother moved to Southern California after his father died when he was 14. Eventually he headed north for Lake Tahoe, partly because it reminded him of Canada.
“I still remember it. I was down in L.A. on a motorcycle on Ventura Freeway in the traffic and I could see vapors rising in the heat. I said, ‘Ya know, this sucks, I’m outta here.”
He took handyman job with the police department in 1973. Two years later he was on patrol as an officer. Huard stayed on patrol for 10 years. Out on the beat, he said he tried to treat each person he encountered with dignity.
“I tried to separate the behavior from the person,” he explained. “You’re not my enemy, I don’t even know you. Often I’d hear, ‘Thank you officer. You were cool.'”
In 1985, Huard started D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) at South Lake Tahoe schools, bringing the program from the Los Angeles Police Department the year it was created. It blossomed and expanded to include the School Resource Program, which puts an officer at a group of elementary schools, the middle school and high school. Huard is proud of the “umbrella of safety” the program provides at the schools.
Huard stepped down from the D.A.R.E. program in 1998. By then he had been asked to be a member of a special group of 50 school and law enforcement professionals formed by the California Department of Education and state attorney general. In retirement, Huard expects to continue as a full-time consultant for this “cadre.” This week, he’s in Southern California meeting with educators. Right now his focus is on hate crime at schools.
Huard is also a member of California Safe Schools Assessment, a committee formed by the Legislature six years ago. Each year they issue a report that lists all school-related crimes, which often becomes big news, Huard said.
Away from crime, school and education, Huard said his goal in retirement is to continue to garden and play more hockey. Being a native of Toronto, the sport is in his core.
“I have bad dreams about not being able to skate. Hockey is really big for me.”
On the flipside, Huard has been big for his colleagues and this community.
“We are going to miss Paul so bad, so, so bad,” said Betty Stone, police records supervisor.
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