Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens said it is an ongoing effort with law enforcement to “get out of the car” and talk to people.
Several Leavenworth police officers did that and more Friday afternoon at Bob Dougherty Park.
The officers laced up their sneakers and played local youth in a friendly basketball game as part of the second annual Unity in the Community Movement’s outreach event.
The event is designed to help local youth build bonds with local police officers.
“This gives young kids the opportunity to see officers in a relaxed, non-confrontational environment,” Kitchens said. “It’s an opportunity to build relationships with people.”
Unity in the Community Movement founder and event organizer Jermaine Wilson said the event helps local youth build trust in police officers.
“The kids are seeing a real positive image of our police department,” he said. “It’s a good vibe.”
Grace Bryant, a 13-year-old Leavenworth girl, played in the basketball game.
“It was a good experience to be around the police officers,” she said. “It shows you that police officers are not mean.”
State Rep. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth, said the Unity in the Community Movement is unique.
“You don’t see anything like this at all across the state,” he said. “This type of movement brings together urban youth and the police.”
Wilson said about 200 people attended Friday’s event, which also included a softball game, faceprinting and a bounce house. A free meal included chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs.
Wilson said plans are to have the event every year. He said next year, the event may be moved to a Saturday.