Suffolk County's police department is dropping DARE, the widespread school anti-drug program that has faced questions about its effectiveness, the police commissioner said.

Commissioner Richard Dormer said Thursday he aimed to replace DARE with another drug-prevention program, but some local lawmakers objected to the idea.

With the change, set to take effect in January, the large Long Island county's police force will join a series of school districts and law enforcement agencies that have abandoned the program, formally known as Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Schools and police forces work together to offer it.

After nearly 20 years in Suffolk County, DARE isn't working, Dormer told local lawmakers Thursday. The program's 26 police officers teach fifth- and seventh-graders about the dangers of drugs, spending an hour a week in a given classroom for 10 weeks.

Students "are tuning us out, and that's why we haven't reduced drug use in our society," Dormer told the County Legislature's Public Safety Committee.

Instead of DARE, Dormer wants to add police participation to HealthSmart, a general health and safety program now taught in various school districts. He plans to assign 10 of the current DARE officers to the new program.

Three Republican lawmakers said students would be shortchanged by Dormer's plan.

"Please tell me how less is better," said Legislator Lynne Nowick, of St. James.

Launched in Los Angeles in 1983, DARE is offered in 75 percent of the nation's school districts, according to the organization.

But a 2003 U.S. Government Accountability Office analysis of several studies concluded DARE had "no statistically significant long-term effect on preventing illicit drug use."

The national DARE organization disputes the studies and says the program has changed to become more effective. DARE representatives did not immediately return a telephone message left early Friday at their Inglewood, Calif., headquarters.

Suffolk County, on eastern Long Island, has a population estimated at more than 1.4 million.