A Tazewell County deputy was recognized last week as the 2019 Bentowski-Eanes DARE Officer of the Year.
Deputy Landon Hieatt was presented the award at the Virginia School Safety Training Forum in Hampton last Wednesday. He was one of a number of nominees across the commonwealth considered for the award.
While he was honored to receive the recognition, the young deputy said the bigger reward is being able to touch the lives of Tazewell County’s youth.
“Getting an award is one thing, but knowing that the kids are getting the information they need is all that really matters.”
“I get told all the time by kids that they really like the program and they remember the police officers they have in their classes and they do remember their lessons. It’s just a great program to have in our schools.”
A four-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Office, Hieatt has spent three of those years as a DARE officer, educating elementary and middle school students about violence, bullying, alcohol and tobacco. It also teaches children responsibility and communication skills.
“And it’s a good chance for a police officer to go into a classroom with kids and they see us, not at their house, not with blue lights late at night, arresting their parents, but it’s us coming in with a smile on our face and they get to know us and not be afraid of us,” Hieatt said.
Hieatt, the son of Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt, said the DARE program runs in his family. His father served as a DARE officer for 10 years. As a kid, Hieatt said he would often visit his father’s office during the summer where his DARE teaching supplies were kept. He’d also occasionally accompany him to DARE graduations and while in high school would help decorate for the ceremonies.
It was while he was in high school that Hieatt decided he’d like to follow in his father’s footsteps and go into law enforcement.
“One of my main goals was that if I went into law enforcement, I wanted to be a DARE officer,” Hieatt said.
Hieatt graduated from the Southwest Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy in Bristol and attended DARE Officer Training through the North Carolina DARE Association. He currently serves as a DARE officer at three elementary and two middle schools. When he’s not teaching DARE, Hieatt can be found serving as a school resource officer.
“I am confident that we have the best school safety program in all of Southwest Virginia, and seeing Landon get this state award is just one more piece of evidence to support that conclusion,” said Tazewell County School Board Chairman David Woodard.
The DARE program has allowed Hieatt to build relationships with students throughout the county.
“He invests in these children on a daily basis and works diligently in the schools to make them a better place,” said Cpl. Glen Keen, who supervises the DARE program in Tazewell County.
In addition to teaching the DARE program, Hieatt also volunteers his time making community oriented videos for the Sheriff’s Office, helping to make a positive impact between law enforcement and the citizens of Tazewell County through social media.
Hieatt plans to further his involvement in the DARE program by seeking a position in on the Virginia Dare Association Board, which would allow him to expand his impact as a DARE officer to the state level.