KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Following a violent week across our nation, activists here at home say it's more important than ever to foster good relationships between police and the community.
Pat Clarke, community outreach specialist for Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte, took his efforts to the basketball court Monday night.
Dozens of kids shoot hoops at Pat Clarke Court in Oak Park near 44th and South Benton three nights a week as part of Clarke’s L.E.A.D.E.R.S Program. That stands for “loving everyone around develops experience, respect and social skills.”
Kansas City Police Officer Mitchell Branch attends the games each Monday to keep the kids safe. But this week, he also joined in on the fun and shot some baskets alongside players during warmups.
“I enjoy spending time with the kids,” Branch said. “I like seeing them enjoy an activity that`s not getting them into trouble and doing something positive.”
But it goes beyond a game of basketball – it's a chance for kids living in KC’s urban core to get to know a police officer on a deeper level.
“They realize that we`re people too,” Branch said. “And we like to interact with them, and we`re not just the bad guy when they get pulled over.”
Mon-Terrio Brown, 18, said he appreciates the candid interactions with the officers.
“It`s cool having them out here and everything,” Brown said. “The majority, most people wouldn’t even think the police would come out to support this cause. But they`re out here every day helping us out, making sure everything is safe, watching out, they even support some of the games.”
Clarke believes building those positive relationships is more important than ever following several high-profile police killings of black men and a sniper attack that claimed the lives of five officers in Dallas.
“Reminding these kids that when [a police officer] takes that uniform off, just like Superman, he goes back to being Clark Kent,” he said. “He`s a real guy. You know, and that`s my hero, Clark Kent, because he`s the one who really does the work.”