CMPD’s Police Athletic League Changing Police Perceptions

CHARLOTTE, NC — CMPD’s Police Athletic League has been working with kids in Charlotte neighborhoods for 50 years. With the current climate between officers and the communities they serve, PAL may be more important than ever before.

“Breaking ankles I guess?” says 5th grader Kentrell Ellis describing why he loves playing basketball. “Shooting?”

“Scoring, three pointers and making buzzer beaters,” adds 4th grader Kamari Wright.

The basketball is fun. Building relationships with these kids is the mission.

“Start them young,” says CMPD Officer Anthony Bogues. “Get them within the program. We’re able to talk to them, coach them and guide them into their correct direction they need to go into.”

Officers work year-round to give kids access to sports and enrichment programs. It’s a chance for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to change a recent negative narrative at the youngest level.

“I feel kind of scared, a little,” says 3rd grader Lataysia Oliver-Young describing how she feels when she sees a police officer in uniform. “Usually they always arrest people.”

Instead of enforcing laws in the streets, these officers get to impact young lives in other ways.

“A lot of coaches come in here, they’re officers, and they’re in plain clothes,” says Bogues. “And a lot of times the kids don’t even realize that they’re officers until they actually put on their uniform. And they’re amazed, and it’s great to see that smile on their faces.”

And you can hear the difference in perception when these PAL kids talk about police.

“Safe,” says Ellis. “Because whenever I get hurt, or something like that, then I know there’s police people around me.”

“I think that a police officer is just trying to like stop people from, like bad people and stuff like that,” says 3rd grader Jordan Nance. “Helping.”

“Just pretend they trying to go after somebody, and then I try to save them, and they try to hurt me or something,” says Wright. “I tell the police officer. They take them to jail.”

The Police Athletic League runs a day-long camp program in the summer for kids between the ages of 7 and 15. For more information, call 704-336-2105.