HUNTINGTON BEACH : Long Arm of Law Reaches Out to Boy

Eric Stotz remembered the police officer who visited his school last year to talk to the students about drugs.

So when Eric moved to Connecticut and found himself in a strange place among strangers, he spoke fondly of that memory. As a result, the Huntington Beach officer wrote a five-page letter to Eric, now a fifth-grader, about the officer's own move to a new town in the fifth grade.

It all came about when a D.A.R.E. officer visiting the Huckleberry Hill Elementary School in Brookfield, Conn., happened to meet Eric, who talked about his teachers back home at Oka Elementary School in Huntington Beach. Then the boy particularly mentioned the officer he had come to know in the fourth grade when the officer visited his school.

The Connecticut officer wrote to Oka school, asking the name of the D.A.R.E. officer who had so impressed Eric and whether he might drop a note to the boy.

The Huntington Beach officer, Michael Corcoran, responded with a five-page, typewritten letter to Eric, describing his own boyhood experience when his family moved to a Northern California town, just as he was entering the fifth grade. He wrote about how his new classmates teased him because he wore glasses, the fights he got into and how it took most of the year before he found a friend.

"I just tried to let Eric know that when I was in the fifth grade, I went through the same thing," Corcoran said. "The main thing, with me, was I was trying too hard to be liked. So, I just tried to tell him to calm down and be yourself."

Corcoran, who has spent the past three of his 22 years as a police officer in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program, recalled Eric as a likable boy with whom he had a rapport.

"When you're out at a school, during lunch and recess there are some kids who every day come up and say hi," he said. "He was one of those kids, one of those friendly kinds of kids."

Corcoran said he has kept in touch with other students after their families moved, "but none quite as dramatic as moving 3,000 miles away."

Such cases, he said, make his current job more rewarding than any other police work he has done.

"It's like the typical teacher lot," he said. "You're mingling with children all the time, and then one day one of your (former) students shows up and says he's the president of a company or something. Every once in a while something like that will happen, and it makes you think that maybe you are doing a halfway decent job."

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