Cops and Cleats aims to connect West Valley City police, youthSep 08, 2022 01:07PM ● By Darrell Kirby
How is understanding and trust developed between police officers and young people? By working together in an athletic field with a lot of football passes and running drills.
On a warm July morning on the Hunter High School football field, members of the West Valley City Police Department and a couple hundred kids ages 7 to 17 got together for the city’s first-ever Cops and Cleats event.
The teens and preteens got to run around and learn some basic football skills from former BYU players, but the main purpose of Cops and Cleats was to build trust in a fun environment between law enforcement and the younger generation.
“We wanted to find a way for our officers to engage more with the youth community members,” said West Valley City Police Lt. Levi Lloyd who, along with his Community Oriented Policing team, organized the local event. “What better way to engage with them than to come work out with them and do some sports training.”
In a report issued in 2018, “Police-Youth Engagement,” the International Association of Chiefs of Police noted that “...research finds that positive interactions with police are predictive of positive attitudes toward the police, negative interactions are predictive of negative attitudes.”
That was Lloyd’s goal at Hunter High School as he chatted with small groups of young participants before addressing the gathering as a whole before they started their drills.
“We want to get to know them a little bit better so they have a better understanding of what we do as officers and they’ll have a trust in us and a good relationship with us as we try to make the community safer,” he said.
“I think it’s pretty cool that they all came out to have some time with all the community,” said Kase Tarrant shortly before the event began. “I’m really interested in football and also I really like to hit people,” the 11-year-old added.
The kids—mostly boys with a smattering of girls—started the day by lining up along the south goal line of the football field to do running drills and later tossed the football around under the tutelage of BYU offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch and wide receiver Ross Apo, whose Cougar careers spanned 2013-17 and 2010-14, respectively.
Pemani Tuual of West Valley City brought his 7-year-old son Jesse to Cops and Cleats to help him pick up some basic football skills and to see police as the good guys. “We didn’t have that when I was growing up so I’m hoping this will change it and the kids won’t be so afraid of them,” he said.
Cops and Cleats is a national nonprofit organization that provides sports equipment to youth in need and helps forge better relations between law enforcement agencies and youth. λ