MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Police Department is gearing up to take thousands of young children under their wing through a Police Activities League.
The program is expected to curb crime by pairing young people with police officers and first responders.
"They see an officer now they see them differently because they were able to work with them while they had a whistle, shorts and a t-shirt," said Sgt. Craig Littles.
Changing how children see police officers, that’s the aim of a new program that’s giving youth something to do while placing them in the company of those who are sworn to serve and protect.
"Every precinct will have a youth program running from their precinct, and nearby high schools will partner with the them for events," added Sgt. Littles.
MPD officer’s will work with neighborhood children to build relationships, and mold them into young adults on courts and even football fields.
In the past, Director Michael Rallings and even Mayor Jim Strickland have pointed out that many of the crimes committed in Memphis are at the hands of youth—a problem PAL could help the city push past.
"Children see officers in their uniforms, but it’s different when they see them in a coaching atmosphere. They learn how to have more respect for the officer so when they see them in the street that trust bond is built better," added Sgt. Littles.
For Sgt. Littles the project is personal. He remembers growing up in Frayser, where he said positivity wasn’t the first thing he found when he looked around.
"I grew up in these neighborhoods. My influences was drug dealers, robbers, gangsters, and I grew up out of that neighborhood because I was represented by an adult who had a bigger vision for me," added Sgt. Littles.
Since he found a way out, he’s ready to create a similar gateway to greatness for other young people.
"This is only the beginning. PAL's vision is only limited to what your thought process is," said Sgt. Littles.
Right now six precincts are gearing up to take part in the initiative. They’ll get started with coaches and athletes in the spring
Not only will officers serve as coaches for the league, but also referees and mentors throughout the season.