BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — With law enforcement controversies and anti-cop rhetoric dominating the national headlines, a group of Alabama police officers are going out of their way to make sure local children know they can be trusted.
Last week, the Birmingham East Precinct received a call complaining about a group of kids playing soccer in the parking lot of a tractor supply business downtown. Officer Jordan Burke and four others responded to the call and found a group of kids playing with a football and soccer ball. As the officers approached, the kids stood petrified, wondering what was about to happen.
“They were just staring at us,” Burke said. “One of them had a football and I motioned to him and asked him if he wanted to play catch. He just lit up.”
The officers started a soccer game against the kids, but were called to respond to another incident after about ten minutes. Then the officers came back to finish the game after they completed the call. They’ve since been back almost every day to play with the kids.
Burke posted about the game on his Facebook page.
“Please stop calling the police telling us to tell children to stop playing outside. This will be the result every time,” he wrote. “The soccer game that followed, was intense. Unfortunately, my team lost. But my partner and I won new nicknames ‘Woody’ and ‘Buzz.’ Apparently running with all this gear on makes it look like there’s a snake in my boots.”
The officers hope that the exposure from this story will help teach kids that cops don’t have to be feared and that parents will stop using the police to instill fear in their children.
“You get these little kids who see us and they’re bawling crying and it’s heartbreaking,” Burke said. “Our job is to help people and it’s hard to help people if they’re scared of us.”
Burke and the other officers are planning to buy some new equipment and toys for the kids. In light of the negativity pointed at police officers from the media, the Birmingham officers are grateful of the positive reaction they have received.
“There’s no one cops dislike more than bad cops, so it’s great to show not all guys are out here messing up,” Burke said.
Birmingham police Chief A.C. Roper is proud of his officers for doing their duty and fostering a positive image of law enforcement.
“As I look across the nation there are numerous stories about police departments and their communities having troubling relationships,” he said. “I think we can all agree we want the children to feel comfortable approaching our officers when there’s a problem. We might lose the soccer game but we win something even greater when building relationships.”
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