The Ferguson Police Department’s new D.A.R.E. vehicle, a Humvee, bears the usual markings of the national drug-prevention program with recognizable red letters and its lion mascot.
However, the mascot’s name — Daren the Lion — has grabbed the attention of some residents and parents in the north county municipality. They believe it’s insensitive because it's too similar to Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in August 2014. That shooting touched off weeks of at-times violent demonstrations to which law enforcement brought military-style vehicles.
The name of the mascot isn’t anywhere on the D.A.R.E. vehicle. But the original release from the city, which also said the “Humvee is sure to catch the attention of kids,” incorrectly spelled the mascot lion’s name as “Darren."
Ferguson Police Commander Frank McCall said this week that the misspelling was an "innocent mistake," adding "the name and the mascot is in no relation to what happened here in 2014."
But Emily Davis, a parent of three children in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, called the vehicle “a slap in the face” in comments to the school board Wednesday evening.
Ferguson officials said the Humvee, which the department received in 2011 but didn’t say from whom, replaced a rusting van that had been used for many years. The van had nearly identical decals.
The Humvee has not and won’t be used for actual police work, McCall said.
"In no way shape, form, or fashion would we put anything into practice that we feel would have a negative impact on these kids, let alone this program,” he said.
He added that there are no plans at this point to find a different vehicle to use for the D.A.R.E program. D.A.R.E stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
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