Police will team up with young adults on Hamilton Hill for a basketball league this month.
It’s been billed as a way to experience “positive interaction” with police by battling over a basketball instead of more serious matters.
The effort was organized by Come Unity Alliance and the YMCA, and as soon as they called, the police chief was eager to sign up. Chief Brian Kilcullen — who plays plenty of basketball in his off hours — will join a team for the weekly league at Jerry Burrell Park. Teams will play each other from noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday.
Also playing will be Detective Sgt. Ryan Macherone, who hasn’t played much since high school.
“I hope I don’t let anyone down,” he joked.
The goal is to let police and the community interact over something fun.
“It’s an opportunity to connect on a whole different level,” Macherone said. “A lot of times, patrol officers are thrust into people’s lives at their worst time. It’s not an easy time. It’s hard to create a bond.”
That’s why organizer Rosa Rivera created the league.
“The community-police basketball league has been done in other cities such as Chicago, where there’s tensions between community residents and police officers,” she said. “Many community residents don’t feel police officers are there to keep them safe. And many police officers feel community residents don’t give them a chance. There’s tension and conflict on both sides.”
She hopes both sides will benefit from meeting each other “in a more collaborative atmosphere.”
The league won’t be police versus the public. Each team will have an officer on its roster.
“So it’s not a versus. To win the game, you have to work together,” Rivera said.
She’s hoping to get more officers to sign up. So far, only a couple have committed, but Macherone said he’s telling officers they don’t have to come every Saturday — the teams can have a rotating collection of officers.
Rivera has had no trouble recruiting young adults for the league. She has six teams ready to play Saturday — and the police may have to work hard.
“We have some really good basketball players here,” she said.