Police and Neighborhood Kids Square Off On Newly Reinstalled Basketball Court

By Renée Roden

Despite the 87-degree afternoon heat, officers from the 24th Precinct were grinning through their sweat.

Sporting their blue jerseys and T-Shirt, emblazoned with the “Titans” logo of the precinct, the officers squared off on the basketball courts in Frederick Douglass Playground on 101st Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Scattered among their ranks, several neighborhood youths passed the ball back and forth to their Titan teammates. Due to the low numbers of neighborhood kids who showed up, both teams were made up of officers from the 24th and neighborhood kids.

The game was a follow-up to a spontaneous match that Youth Coordination Officers Navarro and Rosado had initiated on Tuesday.

“We played here Tuesday. A couple kids were here, and we said to them ‘do you guys wanna come play,’ and we ended up playing them,” says Navarro. They called in the Neighborhood Coordination Officers Lopez & Mauras to round out their team, and they had a game.

Only one of Tuesday’s participants showed up for the re-match, and he said that the officers had out-performed them on Tuesday. But word had spread, and a few new players showed up to try out the re-installed basketball hoops. Hoops were added throughout the city this week as New York entered Phase 3 of reopening.

“Word spreads around,” said one new player, Jordan, who heard about this game from word of mouth. Another participant, Kareem, had seen information posted on Instagram. Jordan said the game “brings out what’s best for the community to have a good relationship,” between cops and the neighborhood kids. He hoped that fostering good feeling and “a better connection means a better future for everyone, for the cops and for the kids themselves.”

Officer Navarro said the bystanders on Tuesday were encouraging and positive. Navarro reported bystanders telling her, “With everything going on, we like that you guys are trying to connect with the kids, playing with them.”

Today’s pickup game provided an opportunity for continued connection and dialogue. Along the sidelines, a precinct officer and several of the players continued to dialogue about hot-button issues. They discussed white privilege, racism, Trump, and bail reform. “By white privilege, I don’t mean that all white people are rich,” Kareem explained to the officer, “but I mean that the color of your skin gets you certain things, it creates less tension in certain situations.” He continued, “I’m more likely to be accused of a crime than a white person.”

Neither the officer nor her interlocutors saw eye-to-eye on these issues, and no one’s mind seemed to be changed, but the interchange of ideas on the sidelines seemed even-tempered and respectful.

Navarro and Rosado said they hoped to do more sports events with the neighborhood kids in the future, COVID-allowing. The officers had a hand sanitation station set up on a table and masks for the players to wear during game breaks. “We’re gonna try to do a football game,” said Navarro, “but with COVID, it’s hard to do.”

After two games in the hot sun, the teams called it a day. And since the teams had been integrated, both cops and kids could declare victory.

NEWS | 20 comments | permalink
    1. tailfins says:

      Great story. Thanks for this. And nice work by the 24th Precinct. It’d be wonderful if this turned into a regular thing.

    2. Mari says:

      Love this, it should happen more often.
      This is what we need in our community, let’s keep the peace. United we stand
      Thank you 24pct

    3. Leon says:

      This is a great idea in normal times – interactions like these are the best way for the police to build ties to the community and remind us that the vast majority of them are good people.

      But seeing the pictures of people so close to each other without masks horrifies me. Don’t they know better? We are not out of the wood yet. If things like this continue the courts will be shut back down.

    4. UWSMama says:

      I agree this is a fantastic initiative for normal times however – team sports and no masks are a double violation of the social distancing rules. Today at W76th basketball courts in Riverside, there were 30-40 men playing without masks – is this allowed? Because if it is, saying children cannot go to school – or that they have to wear a mask, stay six ft apart and only do so a few days a week – is total hypocrisy.

    5. Will says:

      The Rock Steady Park, famous graffiti and breakdancing landmark. Are cops still arresting kids for graffiti? It’ll take more than a basketball game to mend things.

      • WEAguy says:

        Debbie freakin downer.

        It’s a nice story…sheesh.

        • Ari says:

          It’s a nice story, but nice stories produce a false sense of comfort and complacency, and good press, and this feel-“good” deed, distracts us from the real issues. “Debbie Downer’s” statement is accurate.

          • Kathleen says:

            Why do people feel the need to denigrate every step taken? So cops and kids playing together isn’t the answer to all the racial ills of our society, or to criminal injustice. It’s a STEP. There is no one answer, we need to see more of this willingness to find some common ground and less criticism of anything that isn’t THE solution. How about a little positivity?

            • WEAguy says:

              Thank you for your eloquence, Kathleen. That is exactly right.

            • Ari says:

              While I appreciate the need for some positive news in dark times, the smallest of vanity efforts does not effect change. These members of the police force’s actions have no bearing on legal changes, changes to and consequences for abusive behaviors by other members of the force, police funding, or the racist behaviors of other members of the NYPD and police around the country. We are so many decades (actually, hundreds of years) beyond these tiny actions being enough. We need systemic changes, and we need leaders ready to enact them.

            • Kathleen says:

              @ Ari Of course we need systematic change, please don’t speak to me as if I’m stupid. Why do you need every article to address every thing? This article is simply showing one way we can reach across the divide as part of what needs to be an ongoing dialogue that includes all the many aspects of racial injustice. Finding common ground is so important to resolution of our fears of difference, and this is simply one example of that. I am not, and I do not see this article as even suggesting this is enough. But it is a positive step, one of many, many steps we need to take together.

    6. MB/UWSer says:

      This is a wonderful story of faith and hope.

      Sowing beautiful seeds in this garden of life. We all have a part in the garden; good nutrients help the garden to bloom.

      Thank you to everyone, in this event, who shows courage to foster change for the better.

    7. Joey says:

      This is great interaction between the police and the neighborhood youths. If something can be accomplished here it just might be worth paying cops to play basketball. However, as evidenced by the rise n crime particularly shootings, (recent homicide of a 29 year old man at 105 & Columbus) there is a need for the disbanded Anti Crime Teams to be reinstated. These motivated teams were responsible for the removal a guns from the street, developing information, arresting miscreants and maintaining quality of life. BROKEN WINDOWS POLICING IS THE REAL COMMUNITY POLICING.

      • Chris says:

        There is very little evidence that supports broken windows policing. In fact, its a strategy that even winds up costing taxpayers more.

        • Joey says:

          Chris guess you didn’t have the pleasure of living in NYC prior to the introduction of Broken Windows Policing. It was a hell hole. Graffiti, larceny of autos, burglaries, mugging, assaults, shootings, homicides, the sport of wilding , drug trafficking, turf wars all at record numbers. Then 1994 came around Bill Barton, the new sheriff in town comes up with the crazy idea to hold police commanders accountable and demand that police officers do their job, ie. enforce all laws and ordinances, issue summonses and make arrests. This resulted in a steady decrease in crime from year to year. Neighborhoods became livable, it became a wonderful American destination place. Even Times Square went from being a Sodom to Disneyworld. Now NYC is quickly returning to that hell hole. The current philosophy of decriminalization, coddling of criminals and demonizing our protectors, the police, is spiraling NYC back to that hell hole. BROKEN WINDOWS POLICING IS THE REAL COMMUNITY POLICING

    8. jimbo g says:

      Hey Will,
      You are right.It will take more than a BB game to fix things.How about getting off your ass and helping out next game?You know get involved.Ref a game, donate some cash for refreshments after a game, etc.Talk is cheap.GET INVOLVED.
      JIMBO G
      Former 24 Pct Cop

      • NYYgirl says:

        Amen

      • Will says:

        You don’t have to tell me that twice, between providing bail support for kids locked up under broken windows policing, and volunteering with organizations like cop watch there are a lot of ways to take action. Where were you after Eric Garner died? Where were you after George Floyd died?

    9. jsv says:

      “Neither the officer nor her interlocutors saw eye-to-eye on these issues, and no one’s mind seemed to be changed, but the interchange of ideas on the sidelines seemed even-tempered and respectful.”

      As a white person, it’s utterly bizarre to me that another white person couldn’t understand these issues at least on some level.

    10. L.A. says:

      Great story, but isn’t this a violation of protocols for recreation for phase 3 reopening in NYC for recreation? De Blasio said for basketball it should just be one person shooting around or a few people playing together, not full-on games.