East Lansing Police Officers use sports to connect with local kids

EAST LANSING, MI (WLNS) - Police in East Lansing are teaming up with kids in the community.

They're using sports to bridge the gap between the city's youth and it's police officers.

The East Lansing Police Athletic League, known as PAL, is a way for kids to get to know the officers they see patrolling their streets every day.

Police say the program helps build relationships and prevent crime by providing structured after school activities.

"It's just an opportunity for them to get out, interact with officers, get to meet some of the officers that serve in their community and help build some of those relationships," says ELPD Administrative Lt. Chad Connelly.

Lt. Connelly oversees the program.

He says it's all about guiding kids in the right direction and giving them options after school to make better choices.

Letting them know officers are there to help, besides just when calling 911.

"We're there to be a resource to them. They can come to us if they need to talk, if they need help, if they're scared. That's really what law enforcement is all about, serving the community in a lot more ways than what we generally think of like with tickets and arrests and things like that," says Lt. Connelly.

Since 1998 more than 3,000 kids and police officers combined have taken part in the PAL program.

Lt. Connelly says officers don't get paid to be there, but it's all worth it. Especially when relationships last beyond the game.

"I still am in contact with a kid I coached my very first year when he was 5 years old on our flag football team. I talk to him regularly and I've been part of his life and he's been part of mine. It's been a good friendship," says Lt. Connelly.

Taking the word "pal" to another level and offering kids the chance to run toward police officers instead of away from them.

If you'd like to get involved, the next basketball game is tonight at 6pm for 3rd and 4th graders at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center.

Participants will need to complete a registration form that can be found on the ELPD website.

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