Police Activities League strengthens community-law enforcement relationships
SPOKANE, Wash. — Summer weather means that Spokane’s parks are busy during the days. A.M. Cannon Park is no exception- at least an hour before a day of activities was scheduled to begin on Tuesday, some kids were already there, waiting.
Until, suddenly, they bolted to the other side of the park to greet their guides for the day– the Spokane Police.
“I will tell you that the safest day at the park is when it’s full of police officers,” said Spokane Police Officer Jennifer DeRuwe.
For six Tuesdays each summer, A.M. Cannon Park hosts the Police Activities League, a program that helps law enforcement bond with the people in the neighborhoods they serve.
“We have baseball, football, basketball, we have lawn activities, we have a STEM activity, we have all sorts of things that the kids could do,” DeRuwe said.
The PAL also visits parks in Hillyard and East Central.
People start to drive by and they say, ‘What are all these police officers doing,’ and usually they think ‘Oh my gosh, what bad thing happened?’ But we’re really trying to change that stereotype that ‘Hey no, the police are here, we’re having fun with the kids and it’s very refreshing,” DeRuwe said.
The program has been around for five years, and has been at A.M. Cannon Park for three. But, this is the first year they’ve offered baseball at this park. Until this spring, the diamond at Cannon Park was in need of renovations. The KXLY 4 Extreme Team and Hometown Chevy chose it as their 2017 Diamonds and Dreams field.
Plus, they got special help from local nonprofit Love 11, who donated new baseball mitts from Dick’s Sporting Goods. The foundation, which honors a Spokane Valley 8-year-old who was killed in a camping accident last year, offers grants to local schools and programs for equipment, as well as sport scholarships for at risk and economically disadvantaged youth.
“With the awesome baseball field we were able to add baseball this year, that’s brand new for us so we have a lot of kids that are super excited to go out and hit balls with police officers. It’s not something that they normally get to do,” DeRuwe said.
SPD says that’s important. While this program is about having fun, it’s also about building a relationship of trust between local law enforcement and the community.
“Everything that we do is based on five core values and so the kids really learn those good decision making, those good choices and they learn what the definitions are and what examples are, they get to know the police officer’s name,” DeRuwe said.
Even when the summer is over and the kids head back to school. those relationships stick.
“When they see [the officers] at Hoopfest or Lilac or all the different activities, that we have in town, they run up. They give the officers hugs, they really engage them,” DeRuwe said.
But, for SPD, six weeks of summer fun is an easy price to pay for a stronger community bond.
“It’s heartfelt because, as a police officer, you don’t always get that sort of response when you show up at somebody’s door,” DeRuwe said.
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