ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Some men and women in uniform want to unify people in the region on a shared space—a basketball court—to build a better rapport with one another.
Mesho Morrow, a former basketball player and business owner, came up with a metaphorical full-court press and collaboration: a 3-on-3 tournament, with a fourth player or manager being an officer of the law.
“Because it allows us to then build relationships in a fun and positive way that’s non-threatening way, where the kids can see the cops as human and the cops can see the kids as human,” said Morrow, owner of the Arch Angels. “We engage and segue into our Cops are Cool Mentors Program.”
Vinita Park Mayor James McGee, a former police officer, understands that basketball can bridge the gap.
“When you get the police involved, that lets the kids know that police are their friend and they can come to the police for anything and the police are there to help them not harm them,” he said.
Organizers with the Arch Angels, the North County Police Cooperative, and the City of Vinita Park will hold the Hard 2 Guard Me 3-on-3 Tournament Aug. 28 at Harris Stowe University.
“We’re looking to have that good fun, safe time with the community and residents and try and start the dialogue before the crisis happens,” said Officer Jason Davis, North County Police Cooperative. “That’s ultimate the big driver for us here. We need a safe ground to hold good conversations and provide resources.”
Teams are forming now for the August tournament.
They’re looking for adults, boys and girls, and police officers from around the region to bring their game for a chance to win and get paired up with someone who just might have a pretty good three-point shot.
“We see people at basketball courts all the time,” said Corey Hawkins-Byrd, Community Engagement Officer for the North County Police Cooperative. “The best way I think is to come to them. Sometimes they see the police and they’re not going to try and talk. So, I think when they see the police like regular people, they’re going to change their perspective on how they view law enforcement.”