COLLEGE PARK – Middle and high school kids in College Park will team up against local law enforcement officials in a friendly basketball game Friday to promote a positive relationship with police in the area.
The game — at 7:30 p.m. in the College Park Community Center — will be the first of a series of games put together by the “C.P. Dream Team,” a partnership between campus and local police, and the city of College Park.
Officials from the University of Maryland Department of Public Safety, the Prince George’s County Police Department and Maryland-National Capital Police will all be in attendance.
The aim is for the university to work closer with the Lakeland neighborhood, where the community center is located, said Gloria Aparicio Blackwell, director of the Office of Community Engagement at the University of Maryland.
“Cultural sport is one of the ways of establishing these kinds of relationships,” she said. “We don’t want that apprehensive relationship with police (in the community) anymore.”
University of Maryland Department of Public Safety Chief David Mitchell suggested the games as a way to get involved with the Lakeland neighborhood – a historic African American community in College Park, Blackwell said.
The goal is to show police officers in a positive light, allowing residents to feel a sense of comfort when they enter the community. Mitchell will throw up the first ball to start the game, and at halftime, Prince George’s County Police Department Officer Jaron Black will hold a discussion about law-related topics with the youth.
“We want them to have a service learning component,” Blackwell said. “We want them to know why (police) want them to be safe, and why it’s important to go to school.
“I think it’s very critical that it’s not just a game, but also an education.”
On Oct. 12, the Center held a similar basketball game to gauge the interest of the kids. Julie McLaren, the center’s director, said it was very positive.
“We were worried if the kids would even come in the building,” she said. “It was so successful, and the fact that they wanted to play was great.”
McLaren said they planned that first game to coincide with the center’s open house, in order to get more kids in the door. The center was able to attract more than 20 kids to play in the game.
“The last time, the police officers were really great.” McLaren said. “They stayed after and hung out with the kids.”
McLaren said the center plans to hold a game every other month, possibly even moving the event to the University of Maryland campus at either Richie Coliseum or Comcast Center.
There’s no cost for spectators at the game, and the center expects an increase in kids coming out and playing against the police.