Staying atop slang, social media help DARE officers read students

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KAILUA-KONA — Police officers may not be the most hip, happening people, but those who work with youth have to find a way to form a real connection with the students.

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KAILUA-KONA — Police officers may not be the most hip, happening people, but those who work with youth have to find a way to form a real connection with the students.

That can be difficult to do.

“Keeping it real” is one of the key ways to know about what youth are up to, said school resource officer Chere Rae Kalili during DARE training Friday at the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, the final day of the three-day seminar that focused on keeping kids off drugs.

She’s worked at Kealakehe Intermediate for the past two school years, where she is known as Officer Lokahi, and maintains “keeping it real” means developing honest, open, evolving relationships with students that entails staying aware of the constant changes in trends.

Because trends move fast and you can be out of touch tomorrow if you don’t keep up, which she’s learned the hard way.

“It’s crazy to think I would be out of touch,” she said.

But that has happened before. Now, she works to keep close to the students, using their digital tools and following their language. Knowing how kids communicate, and the language they use, makes it easier to observe what’s going on around the community. Without that avenue, figuring out what they’re up to can be as difficult as trying to understand a foreign language.

“With the ease of technology, with the access we have, there’s no reason we shouldn’t know what’s going on with our kids,” Kalili said.

Part of that is checking her Instagram, seeing the activity of her students in the public section of the site.

But keeping up requires knowledge of what people are using.

During the presentation, she projected a screen full of Websites, both social media and media sharing.

When she began her time as an SRO, Kalili said getting students “past the uniform” was one of her major challenges. One way she did so was keeping up with dance moves — that’s part of what it means to keep it real.

And yes, that can require dancing in uniform, to make it clear “you’re not just the police lady.”

“I tell you, if you do these with your kids they will be like, ‘Yes,’ and you’re in,” she said.

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The prevalence of music is another way to maintain contact with youth, along with a route of new dangers.

The increased popularity of “purple drank” or “syrup,” a combination of prescription-strength cough syrup and soft drinks, sometimes with ice or candy added, can be traced in part to it being featured in music songs.

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