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Cops and Basketball: A slam dunk in south St. Pete
BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Local boys and girls used their smoothest moves to shake off local St. Petersburg Police officers who showed up on 15th Street and Seventh Avenue for playful, community spirited basketball game last month during spring break. Complimentary weather conditions set the scene for a few fun-filled hours of shooting hoops.
The idea of cops randomly playing basketball with neighborhood kids started with Cops and Basketball founder Police Officer Bobby White in Gainesville.
“Little over two years ago, there was a dash cam video of me interacting with some kids playing basketball while on patrol in Gainesville,” said White, adding that the video went viral.
Initially, White was in the area responding to a noise complaint. Once he saw that the noise was coming from a group of kids playing basketball, he decided to join in. It was all captured on dash cam video.
The public information officer uploaded the video to the Gainesville Police Department’s Facebook page and it quickly scored a million views and comments such as: “We need to see more cops like you out there!”
“I know that there are thousands of cops around the country that do the same thing every day that I did,” said White.
The comments White received inspired him to form a foundation that would allow him to travel around the United States and work with cops who voluntarily do the same thing that he did that fateful day. As a result, Basketball Cops Foundation was created.
White said the foundation acts as a resource for more than a thousand police agencies all over the country that do the same thing in communities around the country on a daily basis.
He contacted the St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD) when he saw a video on social media of a local officer playing basketball with kids in the community. SPPD Officer Camren Hudson was one of the officers who reached out to White. From that initial conversation, the plans evolved to bring Cops and Basketball to St. Pete.
Lieutenant Nataly Patterson, who works for the Investigative Support Unit and is assigned to the Police Athletic League, showed her moves off on the makeshift court.
“The benefits in today’s event are that the people get a chance to see how the community and law enforcement interact,” said Patterson, adding that both the kids and the officers were very excited to participate in the event.
When asked who would win the basketball challenges, Patterson stated without hesitation: “The kids!”
Jimmy Whitehead is a young man who moved to the south St. Pete community less than a month ago from Minnesota. While playing basketball across the street, he was approached by a female officer to check out the activities.
“If we could do things like this more often, just say every six months, it will make a big difference because there’s such a stigma out there that police are bad and that they’re not on our side, but at the end of the day they really are,” said Whitehead, adding that this is nothing new from where he comes from.
By the end of the event, more than 100 children and adults participated. Food and soft drinks were available for all.