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Cops Caught on Camera…Playing Basketball With Local Teens

Proof that policing doesn’t have to be heavy-handed

Warren, Ohio, police officers shoot hoops with local teensRocky Alecia Defrank / FacebookWhen police get "caught on camera," they’re often doing something ire-inducing, like pulling guns on pool-going teenagers or pepper-spraying bystanders for filming them. But this week, two separate images surfaced showing a different side of some cops.

The pictures come from Tacoma, Washington and Warren, Ohio. Both show uniformed officers playing basketball with local teenagers.

According to Q13 Fox TV, "Tacoma Police Spokesperson Loretta Cool said playing basketball with kids is just one of many ways officers interact with the community."

Residents of Tacoma expressed affection for their police department in the Q13 piece.

When I was a freshman in college, there was a bicycle cop whow would make a point to come sit and chat with me and my friends when he was on duty. His attitude, he told us, was to keep students out of trouble by forming friendships with us rather than only showing up after we'd done something wrong.

I can't say his policing strategy deterred any crime (and the academic literature on community policing shows little, if any, effect on reducing crime) but it instilled a mutual respect between him and the students.

According to a 2004 study by David Weisburd of the University of Maryland and John E. Eck of the University of Cincinnati, although community policing efforts don't appear to directly affect crime rates, "when the police are able to gain wider legitimacy among citizens and offenders, the likelihood of offending will be reduced."

The Washington and Ohio officers caught playing basketball aren't the only recent examples of cops tacking toward a less heavy-handed policing style. Earlier this month, a Madison, Illinois, police officer was "cleared of wrongdoing" in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.

Anticipating "civil disturbances," Madison Police Chief Mike Koval took to his blog and "offered those who might 'make a principled decision to get arrested' a helpful menu of charges so they could distinguish between acts that would get them fined and those that would get them jailed and stick them with criminal records," according to The Southern Illinoisan:

Koval said he has worked to make his department a model of progressive policing “in terms of casting, or recasting ourselves, reinventing ourselves into a mold more of a community activist and a guardian, and much less emphasis on traditional law enforcement warrior mindset.”

He said he has emphasized community policing where cops don’t just catch bad guys, but also connect citizens with city services and job training, steer the homeless to shelter, help resolve disputes with landlords.

“I’ve been accused, or indicted — I actually embrace it — as ‘Kumbaya Koval,’ because I want to create this guardian image in which I’m trying to cultivate a workforce that are more like social workers with a badge and, oh yeah, there is this law enforcement element that has to take place.”

It will not surprise you that Koval is fond of a quote attributed to Sir Robert Peel, the British statesman who founded London’s police department: “(T)he police are the public and the public are the police.”

Photo Credit: Rocky Alecia Defrank / Facebook

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  • RBS||

    Every time there is a widely publicized asshole cop event these other "See, cops are just part of the community and are really super nice" videos start making the rounds.

  • Homple||

    Well, some are. Might be a good idea to encourage them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    If we reward behavior we like and punish that we don't, why maybe more police officers could play basketball.

    I know there are plenty of decent cops, especially away from the corrupt big city departments, but the system is so corrupt, and the bad behavior so unchecked, that their presence doesn't seem to matter.

    This is total hyperbole, but I have this vision of seeing Nazi camp guards playing soccer with inmates: "See, mein herren and herrinnen? The boys, sie sind not so böse."

  • FrankCB||

    You mean widely publicized fake asshole cop events.

    For example, the latest at the pool event was in fact teenagers breaking into a pool party, swarming cops, then returning the next day to break into homes, steal vehicles, vandalize vehicles, steal property, and attack residents.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Community policing does not reduce crime, but doesn't it lessen the hatred of the community toward the police department, and also encourage the community to report crimes and disturbances?

    "Hey Officer Friendly, that guy who is beating his wife is beating his wife again."

    I would think that the "community" is well-aware when someone commits a crime and should face punishment. No one want their homes broken into, or rapes to occur. Investigate/stop those crimes and be polite to people. How is this difficult?

  • sarcasmic||

    Investigating crimes requires actual work, and proving a case when there is a victim also requires work.

    It's much easier to, when someone calls for help, run the person for warrants, and then search them for drugs. Warrants and drugs are easy to prove. If there's no easy way to arrest the crime victim, move on. But investigating and stopping crimes with actual victims? Cops don't give a shit about that.

  • sarcasmic||

    I can't say his policing strategy deterred any crime (and the academic literature on community policing shows little, if any, effect on reducing crime) but it instilled a mutual respect between him and the students.

    More like the students fell for a con-man. The only reason a cop would try to gain someone's trust is so he can betray it.

  • WTF||

    Not all cops are like that, but enough of them are that it doesn't make sense to take the risk.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    And the ones that aren't, by not even trying to do something about the ones that do, self-assign themselves as bad cops.

  • WTF||

    Of course, if you aggressively try to box out a cop, you'll likely get shot.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Throwing elbows is a capital crime.

  • Princess Trigger||

    NO, you're the Police!

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think the armed, hardcore cops, if we simply must have them, should be few in number. If I call the cops because I hear something late at night, I should get a few guys who do it part-time in my neighborhood to come by. That should be the case pretty much across the board. And we don't need heavily armed guys to give us tickets, either. And we don't need any public union goons.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    If I call the cops because I hear something late at night...

    Take care of it yourself, you lazy fuck.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes, but there are old people, women, young people. . .really, all sorts who might want help.

    I do think one thing we should seriously start working on is stripping cops completely of lethal weapons. Not unarmed, just not lethally armed. Gotta be something better than tasers.

  • sarcasmic||

    The problem isn't the weapons. It's the knowledge that they will face no consequences for their actions, no matter what they do.

    Strip them of immunity so they have to think about the consequences of their actions before using their weapons, just like everyone else.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Then you'll never get them to your house.

  • sarcasmic||

    That's fine. It's not like they've ever been any help when I was the victim of a crime.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    WELL GOOD LUCK FILING AN INSURANCE CLAIM.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Hey, the police departments stopped the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore. They protected private property and many innocent civilians. Also, don't get me started on the all of the good work they did during Katrina in New Orleans.

  • amagi1776||

    You've had some bad experience with police, haven't you?

  • MJGreen - Docile Citizen||

    Poor Tulpa... how will he react on seeing this kind of story posted at Reason? I fear his personality disorder is going to intensify as he tries to understand what has happened here.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Who won?

  • F. Gaear Grimsrud, Jr.||

    FOUL!

    *draws gun*

    I mean, good one. Play on.

  • ||

    Tacoma Police Spokesperson Loretta Cool

    The name.

    BTW, this post is badly in need of an editor who understands grammar and usage.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "I can't say his policing strategy deterred any crime (and the academic literature on community policing shows little, if any, effect on reducing crime) but it instilled a mutual respect between him and the students."

    Utilitarians can hardly conceptualize qualitative preferences.

    It doesn't even need to be quantified in terms of less organized protesting or rioting after police shootings--I just prefer an atmosphere of mutual respect for qualitative reasons.

  • Overt||

    My local town disbanded its police force and contracted with the County Sheriff for police work. Prior to that, the local police were hated by the community. There were some decent deputies, but by and large the town police were corrupt and incompetent asshats. The town has a population well under 10,000 but the police had all sorts of ridiculous equipment including military assault rifles. It took a domestic violence scandal that was being tolerated inside the department before the City Council finally had enough and shut them down.

    The county sheriff is a larger organization and based out of town, but a select group of officers police the city, and the force is determined to build good relations with the community. The moral of the story is that you can have a police department that is a part of your community. Leaders matter, as do consequences and positive reenforcement. Even good cops despised by their citizens will turn caustic, and vice-versa.

    I'm glad Reason posted this article. Yeah, in anarcho-libertopia we wouldn't have cops, so this wouldn't be an issue. But we will have cops for the foreseeable future, and encouraging departments with a customer-focused culture of cooperation is one of the ways we stop police abuse of power.

  • sarcasmic||

    My town contracts with the Sheriff and State Troopers. One really cool thing about this is that they will only enforce state law. They don't give a shit about town ordinances. So when some woman at a town meeting complained that her neighbor's use of fireworks was scaring her kitty, the town manager told her that without a police force there would be no way to enforce a ban. And he added that most people in town like the town not having the power to write and enforce petty bullshit laws. Someone in the peanut gallery suggested earmuffs for the shell-shocked kitty.

  • sarcasmic||

    Though I'll add that I've had a couple interactions with the State Troopers in town, and they were dicks. My wife has had the opposite experience with them, but then she's better looking than me.

  • Overt||

    Our police force is actually 5 people who work in an office in the town hall. But all issues, complaints, etc go to the county sheriff who employs them. So they do enforce city ordinances and all that, but if you have a problem with conduct, it goes to the county who, above all, is interested in keeping their contract with the town.

    The County was on display the other day at a town fair, and had all sorts of ridiculous military gear, bomb disposal robots and CIS vehicles. Luckily that equipment all stays at the county and is only brought in for emergencies. The local police have a few cars and that's it. Most of the officers including the chief live in town, and being so small everyone pretty much knows them personally. I think this is a great example of how a large police force can scale down to meet the needs of their community- getting the best of both worlds.

    Again though, as with any "business" it all depends on leadership. If a leader runs the police in a friendly, service driven manner, they will do so. If they see themselves as the razor's edge between order and people at their worst, they will do so.

  • Woodchipper Society||

    Sheriffs are ostensibly creatures of elected officials who face some degree of scrutiny and recourse every so often. Police departments are typically creatures of the city bureaucracy and their actions are only indirectly attributable to elected officials.

    That's why I think it's so often said by people that they prefer their local Sheriff department to their local police department.

  • R C Dean||

    the force is determined to build good relations with the community

    Working under a contract that can be cancelled will do that for you.

  • Woodchipper Society||

    According to a 2004 study by David Weisburd of the University of Maryland and John E. Eck of the University of Cincinnati, although community policing efforts don't appear to directly affect crime rates, "when the police are able to gain wider legitimacy among citizens and offenders, the likelihood of offending will be reduced."

    So it comes down to this. Would a professional group that is disproportionally sociopathic be more likely to attempt to gain some legitimacy by building trust through honesty and humanity or through lies, intimidation and indoctrination?

  • R C Dean||

    just one of many ways officers interact with the community

    Indeed. And, sometimes, everyone gets home safe after these interactions.

  • Drake||

    I know plenty of "good" cops from my time in the military and Guard. But, I've had enough bad interactions with asshole cops that I am very cautious and suspicious whenever I encounter any cop.

    Very glad my town doesn't have a police force.

  • Robert||

    Oh. I thought the point of the story was going to be, these cops were caught goofing off on the job.

  • Saunterer||

    I hate to be a downer, but these "See, cops can be nice" videos seem to really miss the point for me. Their job isn't to play with kids (that's not what we pay them for). Sure, it's better than beating/killing them, but I would much rather see them just do their jobs and in a way that doesn't antagonize the public to the degree that they feel the need to "build good relations with the community" to compensate.

  • Josh79||

    This seems like it may have been staged. I will admit, however, that I have no evidence of this and it is only a gut feeling. That said, even if the convenient photo op wasn't staged, I would not trust any of those cops. That would be comparable with trusting a junkyard dog to play nicely with a toddler, just because it was acting "nice" when you walked past its fence. One final thought: why were they allowing their pictures to be taken? Shouldn't they have been chasing after the camera operators and smashing their phones?

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