Gainesville, FL - January 15th, 2016 @ 5:01 pm
A call came in to the Gainesville Police Depanrtment dispatch center. The caller advised that there were several teens who were playing basketball "loudly" in the street in front of his house. He explained that this was a chronic "Issue" and asked that a patrol officer be dispatched to address the teens and the noise. (Actual call)
I was on patrol and saw the call appear on my in-car computer. I self assigned myself to the call before being dispatched and headed to the "incident" location. I arrived on-scene and encountered exactly what the caller described....Kids playing basketball.
I exited my patrol car and handled the call exacly how I have handled this type of call in the past, and exactly how officers across the country would have handled the call. Not by telling the kids that it was wrong to be playing basketball, but by telling them that I had no issue with it. I then proved it by shooting some hoops with them for over ten minutes before leaving to handle a "real" police call.
Before I left, I asked the kids if they played there all the time. They told me that they played there every day. Planning on coming back with a few more officers for a pick-up game at a later date, I told them that I would return with "Back Up".
The entire call was recorded on my dash cam.
The Gainesville Police Department's PIO, Ben Tobias saw the video and decided to post an edited version of the video on the Gainesville PD's Facebook page. He pressed "Post" and the video went "Boom".
(Watch video below)
In less than 8 hours, the video had been viewed by over 1 million Facebook users! That was around midnight. By 8:00 am, the video had been viewed over 3 million times. Phone calls began flooding in to the Gainesville Police Department from citizens all over the world who wanted to commend me for the way I handled the call. Calls were coming in from media outlets all over the country who wanted to interview me. PIO Ben Tobias instantly became the busiest man in Gainesville trying to keep up with the media requests. Ben excitedly called me at home to start lining up the interviews.
Ben's excitement turned to disappointment when I told him that although it was exciting that my dash cam video went viral, I did not feel that what I did was spectacular and that I would not be taking any undue credit for what police officers across the country do everyday. Ben (after a big sigh) asked me to do an interview with just the local Gainesville media. I agreed.
A few hours later, Ben contacted me and begged me to do just one additional interview....for TMZ Sports. I declined. Ben then told me that TMZ was going to get the NBA involved at some level. This instantly put the thought into my head that if the NBA got involved, that something really cool might happen for the kids I met that day on that call. I agreed to do the interview with TMZ.
THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING! ..... (Watch video below)
Just as I had hoped for after doing the TMZ interview, something really cool happed for the kids. I did the ONE extra interview. It was all worth it. Now I could just go back to being a regular cop. WRONG!
The "Shaq Effect"......Now, not only was every national news outlet calling, but news outlets from all over the globe were calling to interview me. It didn't take long before I realized that this had quickly grown bigger than me and that I couldn't keep declining interviews. I decided to use the opportunity to share my message to the world that what I did that day was nothing innovative, spectacular or special, but that I was doing what police officers do everyday around the world. For the next couple of weeks, I didn't sleep much.
I did several local interviews and was interviewed by Good Morning America, Fox And Friends, Sky News London, BBC, and Fuji TV Japan just to list a few. The story was also covered by a countless number of internet news outlets including Yahoo, Rolling Stone Magazine, Inside Edition, NY Daily News, NBC News, and many more. If you have a minute, go Google "Basketball Cop" or "#HoopsNotCrime" to see them all.
Once again, I started thinking that things are going to get back to normal.....I received a phone call from a representitive of the Orlando Magic. She had some news that I couldn't wait to share with the kids.
(Watch video below)
The trip to the Magic game was followed by an invite to a Florida Gator Men's Basketball Game (video).
These two events created even more media attention as well as more followers of the story. I began receiving donations of basketballs and portable basketball hoops to donate to other kids in the community. I then started receiving emails and facebook messages asking if I was accepting donations to keep the story alive. I started thinking that this could be an opportunity to get basketballs and hoops to kids all over the city. I also thought about all of the apartment complexes and churches around the city that do not have basketball courts. What if I could generate enough revenue to build a few basketball courts??? I had no idea how much a court would cost or what was involved in building one. I decided that I would use the site of the original noise call (Tyree's house) to find out.
I contacted a friend of mine who is a contractor and owner of One Love Cafe here in Gainesville. I asked him how much it would cost to build a 25'x30' court in Tyree's backyard. He told me that it wouldn't cost much, and then offered to build it for me, free of charge.
Two weeks later.........(Watch video below)
........Tyree's court is built.
As a police officer, it doesn't take long to see how damaged the relationship is between our country's law enforcement and the youth in their communities. There is distrust, misunderstanding, and a lack of respect between the two. It's why i have always done my part to try to repair that relationship with the kids that I interact with. It's why handled the noise complaint the way I did. Before this, all I could do is try to make a difference one kid at a time. I now felt like I might have the platform and the community's support to affect kids across the country. I decided that I would dedicate not only my time at work, but also my weekends in an attempt to make a difference.
The Basketball Cop Foundation was born.
It is no secret that there is a damaged relationship between our country's Law Enforcement and the youth in the communities we serve. I believe that this is driven by a lack of trust, misunderstanding, and misperception. I also believe that kids do not prefer to feel this way, but society, with the help of social media and the news has influenced them.
Kids who do not trust or respect the police are less likely to report being a victim of a crime and even less likely to come forward as a witness of a crime. It is a fact that kids that have no reason to respect the law or the Officers in their community are far more likely to commit juvenile crimes themselves.
I believe that the only way that we, as Police Officers, are going to repair these relationships is by proactively going out into the communities and interacting with the kids in a positive manner.
There are many ways to do this. It can be as easy as saying "Hi", giving a "high five" as we walk by, or engaging them in conversation. This works to a point, but it's hard to make a solid connection with a 10 year old when you have little in common. That's where sports become a valuable tool....Especially basketball!
You would be hard pressed to find a kid who doesn't enjoy basketball. Add a Police Officer who can dribble a ball, and you have just founded the beginning of a relationship.
The Basketball Cop Foundation's mission is to connect Law Enforcement agencies across the country with the kids in their communities. This will be accomplished primarily by supplying the agencies with sports equipment. The recipient agency will then in turn donate the equipment to groups of kids in their community through their Patrol Officers. Not only does the initial donation of the equipment open the door to new relationships, but it gives the Patrol Officers in those areas a place where they know they can interact with kids on a regular basis and continue to build on those relationships.
Beyond supplying sports equipment, the foundation would also fund Police/Youth community events, Police/Youth sports tournaments, and fund the renovation and building of basketball courts in apartment complexes, parks, churches, etc.
What makes this mission great, is that not only is it simple to execute, but it has been proven to be effective. In just a short time (as of 7/5/18), the foundation has supplied basketball goals, renovated basketball courts, or sponsored police/community events in approximately 80 different Law Enforcement jurisdictions across the country, connecting hundreds of officers with hundreds of kids.
Together as a community, we can make a difference in the future of our country's youth!