Hoping to connect more with tweens and teens, the Overland Park Police Department is holding a basketball tournament.
The “All Nets, No Drugs” tournament will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 14th, and from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 15th at the basketball court located at the Overland Park City Hall building.
The tournament is open to any area youth aged 11 to 18.
Police officer Brian Payne coordinated the event after an interaction last June opened his eyes.
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He was patrolling the streets with his partner when the two of them rode on bikes past the city hall basketball court. Teenagers playing a game on the court made it clear they didn’t want to talk to them.
“When we ride our bikes in the summertime, people often tell us we’re approachable,” Payne said. “We’re wearing our softer uniform and there isn’t the barrier of a police car. So when we saw kids who didn’t want to approach us, even when we were wearing shorts on a bike, it made us realize there was a disconnect. I wanted to find a way to bridge that gap.”
So, Payne partnered with the city’s community development staff to create the “All Nets, No Drugs” basketball tournament.
In addition to the games, the event will feature activities, such as a DUI goggles station, plus giveaways from the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard.
Upon check-in, each kid will receive a T-shirt and small basketball for participating.
The entry fee is a donation of $5 per person, or two canned goods, to be provided to an area food bank.
Police officers will act as referees at the game. Plus, officers will play side-by-side with the kids during a knockout game on Sunday.
Payne hopes it will establish a bond between the officers and the participants.
“As kids get older, they’re subject to social media and media outlets,” he said. “A lot of middle school and high school age kids experience peer pressure and they’re exposed to negative influences, such as drugs and alcohol. Building trust with kids that age is important for us.”
Space is limited, so any kid interested is encouraged to sign up as soon as possible, he added.
The hope is that the event will become an annual one.
“People are welcome to come out and watch the tournament too,” Payne said. “The city hall basketball court is a beautiful venue and it’s pretty close to downtown, so hopefully we’ll get some people stop by after they hit up the farmer’s market.”
For more information about the “All Nets, No Drugs” tournament, or to register, visit opkansas.org/events/all-nets-no-drugs/.