Basketball game aims to mend gap between youth and law enforcement

Basketball game aims to mend gap between youth and law enforcement

GULFPORT - Hundreds packed the stands at Gulfport High School Monday night for a friendly game of hoops between officers and students.

"We were guest speaking at Gulfport High with a lot of these young men, and I got in a text group with them and next thing I know, Josh Simmons called us out and said we wanna play y'all in basketball," said Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania.

A challenge that Chief Papania couldn't let go unanswered, so he organized the Blue Crew to go head to head with the Gulfport High Basketball team known as The Solution.

"It actually brings everyone together to show that they're all not bad people and it shows that we can trust each other, even though everything else is happening in the world," said Gulfport High Senior basketball player Joshua Simmons.

"The youth get to see us in a different light. They don't see us coming with the blue lights on, or even in our uniform. They see us as human beings. That's the first step, in return, we get to interact with the youth in a positive way," said Gulfport Officer Darren Corri.

It was a community effort. JZ-94.5 gave a helping hand with music and commentary, while plenty of officers were there for support.

"Some of these guys just got off of work, some are going to work as soon as the game is over. There's a lot of personal sacrifice with family and friends to come out here and build a relationship with the community," said Gulfport Officer Joshua Bromen.

"Somebody asked me who's gonna win tonight, I said Gulfport's already won, this is a big night for our city, this is the best way for us to be. Here with our kids in a good way," said Papania.

Gulfport students prevailed with 46 - 26 win over the Gulfport Police Department.

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