LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The ongoing violence in Louisville continues to have a deadly impact on the city’s youth. But a new partnership will use the basketball court to help connect police to young people and save lives.
The Police Activities League (PAL) aims to connect local youth and Louisville metro police officers through basketball. One of the spearheads of the project is Anthony Howard, director of basketball operations for PAL.
“We can no longer afford to do nothing else,” Howard said. “It’s very heartbreaking because 90% of them will say, ‘I had nothing to do.'”
Howard is partnering with LMPD to change that. He hopes PAL will keep young people busy, off the streets and in touch with police officers and mentors.
“My personal opinion is that it will save lives,” Howard said. “When we visit kids who have had problems and are in jail, and we talk to them, they all say pretty much the same thing: ‘We had nothing else to do.'”
Howard said that after mentoring young people for so many years, he has seen and heard many success stories.
“Just a few months ago, a young man who was in a lot of trouble called me and said, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I’d either be dead or in jail,'” he said. Howard. “And the problem is, you don’t see those results right away. But down the road, yes, I believe it will save lives.”
Howard thinks it will also help the police know the people they are sworn to protect and serve.
“And if there’s a cop pulling over a kid driving, and now all of a sudden it’s Coach Rick,” Howard said. “And not only that,” the officer said, “oh, it’s Danny who’s on the program. And it puts out a lot of stuff, #1, but it also becomes a situation where I learn your culture, you learn my culture, we come together, and you get a different perspective when you see someone you know.”
Rick Polin, a retired LPD sergeant, is partnered with Howard in the PAL.
“Families are being destroyed by violence, and we really need to find a way to fix it,” he said.
The PAL is for boys and girls in grades three through eight, begins in February, and will be held at the Creation Center on Portland Avenue in west Louisville. The police will serve as coaches and referees.
Polin was part of a similar program years ago and shared a life-changing encounter. He remembers meeting a former mentee while on patrol.
“It’s something that’s been close to my heart since I was a young police officer.”
“It was a drug-related arrest with a gun,” Polin said. “And while I was arresting this young man, his mom came out, and she was ready to beat me. And he said, ‘Mom, that’s cool. It’s Rick. … He’s fine.'”
Polin said he made the arrest, but his mentee stayed in touch, out of trouble and has a family and a career.
“I’ll never forget the impact it had on me because this young man trusted me because he knew me from a basketball court,” he said.
Polin and Howard think the basketball league will put them in touch with local kids who are in the danger zone.
“It’s not uncommon for us to hear that a shooter is a 13 or 14 year old these days,” Polin said. “The impact of these tragic deaths from this violence in our community is also significant.”
To register for the program, Click here. You can also donate through the Louisville Metro Police Foundation. To make a donation, Click here. And to know more about PAL, Click here.
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