BUFFALO, N.Y. — In the midst of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s declaration of a gun violence disaster emergency, the Buffalo Police Athletic League is working to create positive relationships between youth and law enforcement.
“Oftentimes youth have interactions with police officers that may be negative, especially younger youth,” said Nekia Kemp, the executive director for the Buffalo Police Athletic League. “They only interact when they’re called, when there is an accident. They never have that positive interaction.”
The Buffalo Police Athletic League has a mission of providing sports and enrichment activities for youth in partnership with law enforcement.
“We hit every corner of the city to make sure that we are offering the sports and enrichment programming to children who normally don’t have that opportunity,” Kemp said.
For example, the Love to Serve Tennis Camp teaches kids skills at a low or free cost.
“All of the violence that is going on in the community…there is a ton of evidence that supports community policing is the answer. Being able to build those community, police relationships with youth is so important,” explains Kemp.
Kemp adds that it’s critical for law enforcement, organizers, and coaches to build genuine connections with youth.
“She’s a great person,” said Timesha Kluker, one of the participants, about Kemp. “She’s very kind and welcoming and she remembers my name.”
“I think it’s important because tennis courts probably aren’t as accessible as basketball, soccer, probably football,” tennis instructor Jasmine Mott said. “So I think to open up the game of tennis to kids is important.”
Though the tennis program is underway and runs through August, the Police Athletic League works with youth year-round.