This column was prepared by ITAC, It Takes A Community.
You may have wondered – why is ITAC a “coalition?” What does “coalition” mean? Coalition, in general, means a group of people from diverse interests and backgrounds coming together for a common cause.
According to the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, coalitions empower local communities to solve their own drug and alcohol related problems. By mobilizing the entire community—parents, schools, youth, law enforcement agencies, health care providers, faith-based communities, media, business and civic leaders and others (what we call “sectors”)—communities can transform themselves. ITAC is the vehicle for this platform, facilitating collaboration and executing actions on behalf of the coalition.
We would like to shine a spotlight on two individuals that represent the Law Enforcement sector of our coalition: Elma Police Officer and Iroquois School Resource Officer Joseph DePlato, and Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Wood. Law enforcement initiatives addressing substance use and related crime are now working more intimately with coalitions and communities to solve local problems.
DePlato is a retired state trooper and has worked primarily as an SRO since 2003, except for four years from 2010-2014 when he was on road patrol. DePlato retired from the state police and returned to the Iroquois School District in 2014. Officer DePlato has been involved with the ITAC coalition since its inception in 2009.
What is an SRO? A school resource officer, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, is a law enforcement officer “responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.” They help train and educate school staff members and students, develop safety plans and serve as a liaison between schools and outside agencies, in addition to enforcing laws.
“I do a little bit of everything,” says DePlato. “I do counseling (but I’m not a counselor), I do education (but I’m not a teacher) and I can advise about or take law enforcement action as necessary.”
You can find DePlato on campus during school hours; he has a room in the High School main office. Although he is usually at the high school, he goes to all school district buildings (K-12) as needed. Sometimes he assists teachers in health classes with programs about substance use/abuse. With ITAC, DePlato feels that he brings a unique perspective to the coalition as law enforcement , such as what can and cannot be done legally.
“Number one, I’m familiar with the penal law, and other laws,” explains DePlato. “Number two: sometimes from my experience, I can help enlighten others who have never dealt with this kind of thing. I can tell them what I’ve seen as a state trooper and police officer, for example, when I’ve had to attend road accidents caused by impaired driving; or helping someone who has overdosed.”
Another coalition member from our Law Enforcement sector is Erie County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Wood. Wood has worked in law enforcement for almost 20 years and has been with the Sheriff’s department since about 2008. Wood accepted the Alcohol & Substance Abuse Coordinator position with the Sheriff’s office in October 2020.
“I took over the Alcohol & Substance Abuse Coordinator job about a year ago and started reaching out to the local coalitions. I’ve had close friends and family affected by drugs and alcohol, which is why I wanted to get more involved in those programs,” said Wood. “ITAC is a very active coalition and I see it as a leader in our region for other Drug & Alcohol Coalitions.”
In the short time Wood has been involved with ITAC he has been instrumental in many of our community programs. Recently, Wood connected ITAC with the Erie County Sheriff’s Explorer Post #505 and Advisor Stu Woodside. Explorers is an after-school career training program for young adults who want to gain insight into a law enforcement career. Under the supervision of Deputy Wood and Advisor Woodside, the Explorers used ITAC’s pedal karts and impaired vision goggles, giving students first-hand experience of ‘driving’ under the influence. Wood, Woodside and the Explorers also participated in the EMW Boys and Girls Club Trunk or Treat event recently, giving out Safe Child ID cards to those in attendance. This event was sponsored by ITAC.
Wood has also partnered with ITAC to provide compliance checks and offered TIPS programs (Training for Intervention Procedures) for local liquor stores and businesses where alcohol is sold. The TIPS program provides proven intervention techniques to prevent underage drinking, intoxication and drunk driving. Compliance checking involves using an underage decoy to attempt to purchase alcohol. Impressively, all 13 establishments that were tested during our recent compliance checks passed with flying colors. Congratulations to those businesses!
Our spotlight series will continue to focus on each of the 12 sectors of our coalition. We are proud of our partnership with all our sector members and are appreciative of their support and commitment to ITAC’s mission of prevention and education.