Oakland cops connect with kids through sports

August 7, 2009 5:49:33 PM PDT
Oakland police are reaching out to inner city kids through sports. The goal is to foster better relationships between the police and the community out on the streets.

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What looks like just another soccer game on an Oakland field, is actually much more. It is the final match of a summer camp, hosted by the Oakland Police Pepartment.

The Police Athletic League's soccer camp in the Fruitvale District was supposed to end weeks ago, but this year it was extended due to popular demand from the local community.

"It creates the bond between the two communities and breaks down that barrier of fear of what an officer and law enforcement is within the community," PAL organizer Claudia Ortiz-Silva said.

Police officers and neighborhood kids interact with one another in ways that defeat old stereotypes.

"We want the kids to know that officers are people too and we can express the same emotions of joy, of sadness, of hope, of whatever, fear," Oakland police Officer Mildred Oliver said.

Some of the kids say the camp has changed their way of thinking about police.

"You know, with the incident at the BART and all, we got kind of scared of them, but right now, we're having fun with them, we're seeing their fun side," PAL camper Gerardo Mujica said.

The hope is that the relationships built on this field will extend to the larger community, perhaps for years to come.

"Some people actually look at police as bad people, like, 'oh, they don't know anything,'" PAL camper Francisco Ramos said.

It seems at least some of these kids learned that if they team with a police officer, good things can happen.

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