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Brooklyn Park's basketball tournament ditches cops vs. teens mentality

The program has been rebranded as Cops "AND" Teens, and plays a crucial role in bringing the community together.

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. — The city of Brooklyn Park is trying to bring the community and police together...especially the youth and police through basketball.

The Zanewood Rec Center has had a basketball program for a while now. However, in the past two years, it has rebranded the tournaments to be 'cops and teens' rather than 'cops versus teens.'

Differing abilities on the court always make for an interesting game.

"I mean some of the cops were good...some of them were not as good as others," 15-year-old Russell Cowan said with a sheepish grin.

"We're older too, we've got guys playing with knee braces and bad backs trying to jump," Brooklyn Park Police Detective Jarod Miller said.

That didn't stop Brooklyn Park from hosting its annual cops and teens basketball tournament at the end of April.

"Before I came along it was Cops vs. Teens," Brooklyn Park's prevention & intervention specialist Kelvin Currington said. "We changed it to Cops and Teens to put some of the young people on the same team as police officers."

"We thought it would be better to play with the kids," Miller said. "So we made four teams, put a couple of officers on each team to play with a group of kids, because it's more of a positive interaction and it's actually more fun for us too."

Differing viewpoints, however, sometimes made for tough conversations.

"It was challenging," Currington admitted. "Some of them didn't want to interact with cops in this way."

"I did not wanna play at first, because I'm going to be real honest...I don't like police," 13-year-old Chris Harris said. "They be...I don't know." Harris trailed off. "Nevermind."

But a mutual interest in basketball ended up bringing the city to one court.

"There are good ones there are bad ones," Cowan said, referring to police. "But you know, it doesn't really determine whether I play a game or not. I feel like if i really like the game, why not play? A cop is just a job, it's not really something that you can hate, it's just the person they are. They're doing their job most of the time."

The point of the game was to humanize, each other.

"Just being able to see them outside of uniforms, and that they're just human beings like themselves," Currington said, of police officers. "Knowing they have heart and compassion for the community."

"It's not about convincing people I have to come out and do this job where I'm going to sell to these kids that I'm a trustworthy person," Miller said. "It's about true interaction. Kids meet you, sit down with you, grab a freezie and play dodgeball and shoot baskets, that's how you build trust."

"I had a couple of parents that reached out to me and they said they never pictured their kids playing with a police officer, just off of how they felt about police in the past," Currington added. "And so just to see them engaging really warmed their hearts."

This year's tournament wrapped up at the end of last month...but folks at Zanewood are planning on more events like dodgeball. You can get involved for free, by calling Zanewood rec center in Brooklyn Park.

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