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New Police Athletic League Hopes to Boost Kids, Repair Police-Community Relations

Chris Bolt/WAER News

Syracuse city youth will have a chance to join sports and art camps with big goals of helping them succeed, and improving police-community relations.  The city and police department kicked off the Police Athletic League Monday. 

Police Community Liaison Jimmy Oliver says getting kids involved in programs can provide much more than just a fun activity.

“Being around positive adults that can give you wisdom, that can give you nuggets, coming out of the pandemic our kids, our adults are going to need that.  We’re going to have our soccer camp, our football camp, dance camp, and our basketball camp.  We want them to know respect yourselves, be responsible, be resilient because you’re going to be surrounded by some really good people that can help you get there.”

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
Police Community Engagement Director Jimmy Oliver will lead the development of the PAL with big goals for kids and community relations.

He plans to have 200 kids from age six to 13 involved this summer, then kick off mentoring programs with another 200 from age 13 to 18 in the fall.  Eventually Oliver hopes to track kids through school and even into jobs or college. 

Clinic Schedule

  • Football: Saturday July 1, 2021 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Nottingham High School
  • Soccer: Saturday July 17, 2021 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Schiller Park
  • Dance: Saturday July 24, 2021 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Community Folk Art Center
  • Basketball: Saturday July 31, 2021 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Higher Onondaga Park

There’s a National Police Athletic League organization that’s pledged guidance and financial help as well.  The P-A-L involves many community partners and other police agencies to help spread its reach and provide resources to youth.  Mayor Ben Walsh can see the program over tie helping in another way.

“It’s no secret that here in Syracuse and across the country relationships between communities and law enforcement agencies have been strained.  And the way in which you break down those barriers and build those relationships is by spending time with each other, not at a point of crisis, but at a time when we’re having fun, when we’re learning, when we’re recreating.”

Credit Chris Bolt/WAER News
The PAL has the backing of many organizations in the community, including law enforcement agencies at the county, state, and town level, as well as schools and other entities. 

Law enforcement agencies from Onondaga County, State Police, suburban departments, the district attorney’s office and others plan to participate.  Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner is fully in support, hoping to see an impact.

“Too often we’re turning on our televisions at that 5:00 and 10:00 news and we’re seeing our young people play out in a very negative and horrific way.  We can’t stand idle; we can’t stand around pointing fingers as to who’s going to step in and do something.  We, as police, as government, as non-profit organizations, we certainly understand that we have a heavy lift in front of us.”

Residents with quesions about the PAL can call Jimmy Oliver at (315) 870-5288

Parents and guardians can begin signing kids up this week at:

Mary Nelson Center, 2849 S Salina St, Syracuse, NY 13205 Tuesday, June 8 from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Mundy Branch Library 1204 S Geddes St, Syracuse, NY 13204 Wednesday, June 9 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Northside Learning Center Friday 501 Park St, Syracuse, NY 13203 Friday, June 11 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

A handful of elementary school students from Delaware academy was on hand for the announcement.  Oliver, who will spearhead the P-A-L program, went to Delaware years ago.  He describes himself as “not a good kid” then but recalls caring adults supporting and pushing him.  He believes that’s exactly what’s needed to help youth and police relations now. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.