FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM)-- Community members gathered Saturday for some friendly competition, free food and camaraderie at Arkansas Athletics Outreach with the goal of building relationships.
Lynette Washington, director of development at AAO, set up Saturday's (March 10) block party to bring local law enforcement and the community together.
Washington has worked with kids from all walks of life and said many see police officers in a negative light. That, coupled with the recent tension between police and communities around the country inspired her to use basketball as a way of coming together.
“You’ve got kind of a wide array of things," Washington said. "Then, you’ve got kids who might be fearful or angry because again, we just don’t know each other very well. When we take the opportunity to get to know each other then we can break down those barriers that would otherwise keep us apart.”
The event held three on three basketball tournaments, gave out free food and had a kids fair that included a petting zoo.
Dallas Brashears, a corporal with the Fayetteville Police Department, said they want to be transparent and approachable to the community.
“We want the community to know that we are part of them," Brashears said. "They are us and we are them. We live out in the city, we go to all of the events just like every other person out there. So when we come out to an event like this, we want them to come up to us and say 'Hi' and shake our hands and have an interaction with us.”
Brashears spent the day creating and gathering information cards for the kids, so their parents would have handy information to give to police if their child goes missing.
Brashears explained the kids were very excited about the project and the parents were thankful.
Some of the kids at the event said their school resource officer actually invited them to the event. One kid said it was a bit weird seeing the officer out on the court but he rooted for him none the less.
Others said they saw police as people who are just out to serve and protect but know there are others around their age that think a little differently.
“I think its about their experience with [police] and where they come from," one eighth grader said. "I mean, we are all people and we all make mistakes. You can’t just judge everybody for one person’s mistakes.”
Representatives from the Fayetteville and Springdale Police Departments, as well as Arkansas State Police were in attendance, along with the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Washington said she thought the event went very well as she saw kids and parents interacting with officers.