LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB)– Sitting on the porch of her niece’s house, Cheryl Brown watched a group of children playing in the street when a Lockport Police officer pulled up. What happened after was a moment she couldn’t help but capture.
“I saw the truck coming by and I thought you guys shouldn’t be in the street. As he passed them and pulled over I thought oh boy. But he got out and went to his trunk and gave them a ball and watched them go back and forth,” Brown said.
Then the officer decided to join in on the fun.
“I think they were doing a one on one defense they were practicing.”
It’s interactions like these that Doug Rifenburg is trying to create more of. His Victory Sports Global Outreach recently partnered with Niagara County for its “Bridge the Gap Program.” It’s outfitting over 85 patrol cars with activity bags to help to improve police-community relations through sports.
“We see those on social media and they go viral every once in a while, but why don’t we make that where it can be an everyday occurrence for an officer. That’s where the concept came. We have the equipment we can get equipment and why not try to outfit officers with it, whether it’s a football, basketball or soccer ball, they can engage with kids un the community in a positive way and not a negative one,” Rifenberg said.
“Really it’s about relationship building and what greater way than to do that with sports. It really removes all barriers, creates common ground no matter your race or age, and it really starts to create that conversation and find the root of what are the issues,” said Victory Sports board member Ezra Scott.
Brown says she’s hopeful the program will help ease tensions between the Lockport community and the police and is glad to see the improvements firsthand.
“That’s what I want to see because we have been longing for that for a very long time and with everything going on in the country with police officers and mostly black people there’s no trust. It’s very important because we need to change and the only way we’re going to get change is if we implement it ourselves.”
A touching moment between a @PoliceLockport officer and children was caught on camera. The story behind the interaction and how @VictorySportsGO helped make it possible on @news4buffalo . 🏀 pic.twitter.com/XVaB88PG01— Kelly Khatib (@KellyKhatibtv) July 12, 2021
Kelly Khatib is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.