Off duty police officers in Spokane spent the summer coaching kids from low income families on the basketball court and Thursday was graduation day for those taking part in the Police Youth Athletic League.
This pilot program got its start back in June when police signed up 32 potentially at risk kids for a two month long basketball camp. As a service to the community the youngsters first painted over graffiti downtown and in return sponsors gave the kids their uniforms.
Then came the practices where those off duty officers worked with these young people, exposing them to cops in a positive light while at the same time those policemen learned more about the challenges these youngsters face growing up in east central Spokane.
Police Chief Frank Straub congratulated the kids Thursday and passed out backpacks filled with school supplies donated by the Spokane Police Guild.
"We have to wrap our arms around our children, we have an obligation we brought them into this world, to make sure that our children are successful and then as a community we have that same obligation and so where families can't get it together the community has to," Straub said Monday.
There are many adults who live in east central Spokane who are doing just that. Various churches and their members have been coaching these kids as well.
Beginning in October the police department rolls out its "Youth Police Initiative" where officers will do even more mentoring with children. It's a program Straub started up in White Plains, New York that met with a lot of success.