Homer Elks #2127 awarded Homer Police Lt. Ryan Browning the Enrique Camarena Award, the first lodge in Alaska ito award a law enforcement officer with the Elks National Award.
The Enrique Camarena Award was established by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks to recognize and honor law enforcement officers who have made a significant contribution in the field of drug prevention and who personify Agent Camarena’s belief that one person can make a difference.
In 2013, Browning began engaging Homer’s young people at various community and school events in an attempt to connect to them and educate them on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. In 2014 he came up with the idea of Project Drive, a seminar about the risks involved with driving under the influence where kids can drive a specially equipped utility vehicle with a police officer while wearing a set of Fatal Vision Goggles to simulate various levels of impairment and either day or night conditions.
A grant awarded by the Alaska Highway Safety Office helped set Project Drive in motion. The grant has been renewed and the program has been expanded every year since to include delivery throughout the Kenai Peninsula and at schools in Anchorage, Palmer and Wasilla and helping other communities set up their own programs.
Homer Police Chief Mark Robl said Browning has worked hard to to make sure Project Drive and its results continue and spread.
“Not only do we get to show teens first-hand the dangers of driving while impaired while in a safe environment, we get to build positive relationships with the kids and there is no greater measure than that,” Robl said. “We believe in this program and its outcomes.”
Robl said that since the beginning of the project, “Minor Consuming Alcohol arrests declined from 16 to 5.8 and the annual average number of minors being charged with operating a vehicle after consuming alcohol has gone down from 7.8 to 3.2.
“During this same time frame we have also seen our annual average number of DUI (driving under the influnece) arrests decline from 102.6 to 75.8. Project Drive is positively affecting children throughout Alaska and is expanding to more communities in 2018.
“It was developed and implemented solely through the efforts of Lt. Ryan Browning.”
Homer Elks #2127 was selected to award Browning as the first law enforcement officer in Alaska to receive this humanitarian award.
This award was presented at the annual Homer Elks Awards banquet held on April 7.
Special Agent Camarena was a slain DEA Agent, murdered by the Mexican drug cartel, while investigating drug trafficking into the United States.
He was brutally tortured and killed in 1985.
His death precipitated the start of the Red Ribbon Campaign that Elks celebrate each October in his honor.