Police and youth play games, build trust
By Tyler Stocks
Friday, November 8, 2019
Local police officers showed they were game for building closer community connections as they gathered at Eppes Recreation Center on Thursday to challenge youth in checkers, foosball and video matchups.
The gathering, know as Game P.L.A.Y. (Police, Life and Youth) attracted nearly 300 young people. Organizers said the free event was intended to foster positive relationships between children and law enforcement.
As the music reverberated and dance characters moved on a large inflatable screen, 11-year-old Kamryn Humphries, a middle school student at A.G. Cox in Winterville, challenged an East Carolina University police officer to a dance off. After winning, Humphries showed off her championship belt before running off to try out other games.
Humphries said she really enjoyed interacting with police officers in such a positive manner.
"It helps us see them not as the people we see on TV or in movies," Humphries said. "We get to really see what police officers are like and what they really do."
Jeremy Boyd, 15, a freshman at North Pitt High School waited with his buddies to play a popular football game. He said he likes that officers are using video games to bond with youth.
"I think it's nice because it shows that everybody can have fun and stuff," Boyd said.
Co-organizer Gera Miles, who also works as an English professor at ECU, said he hopes that Thursday's event changes how police officers are perceived.
"What we're trying to do is build trust and fellowship between kids and police officers," Miles said. "We're giving people another perception of kids and police that they can use in their everyday life and hopefully they'll turn it into something positive."
As Greenville Police Sgt. Richie Williams challenged children to a game of checkers and boasted about being undefeated, he said interacting with them is part of why he decided to become a police officer.
"For me, it's always been about working with kids," Williams said. "It's a good way to build that trust and to me, that's where true relationships are built. (Events like these) give police officers the opportunity to really intermingle with kids in a positive setting. Anytime we can put together this type of event, it's a plus for the city, it's a plus for the police department and it's really a plus for our community."
"Anytime law enforcement get to come together and volunteer with kids is just a way that we can break down those barriers and build those relationships," he said. "Maybe kids will want to grow up and be a police officer because of what we're doing here."
Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly also attended the event and said he is proud to see that police officers and the community are building partnerships.
"It's great to be able to see that kids are out here having a great time, having great interactions with our police officers that are doing great work in our community," Connelly said.
After gaming for a few hours, organizers held breakout sessions where attendees could talk to police officers and have snacks.
Miles said his organization plans to continue hosting these events and looks forward to promoting good will between police and community members.
"We enjoy what we're doing and we believe in what we're doing. We tell the story of what we do and people believe in it too," Miles said.