UNIVERSITY VILLAGE — Paris Edwards has worked in the Near West District as a police officer for the past 17 years. He knows his beat pretty well.
"The youth feel like the only time they have interactions with the police is when they're being stopped for questioning," Edwards said. "We want to let them know that shouldn't be the only time they interact with the police."
Edwards, along with his fellow officers, kicked off the district's basketball tournament at Fosco Park, 1312 South Racine Ave., Friday night.
The tournament, which will take place every Friday night for the next five weeks, is expected to pull in kids ages 13-15. The coaches and referees are Near West District police officers.
Here's footage from the 012 District CPD/ Fosco Park Basketball Tournament. pic.twitter.com/SxJhjCm1mZ— Evan F. Moore (@evanFmoore) March 5, 2016
Edwards said that he spoke with several community groups, and the best solution to distrust between community and police was to come up with a community event — something the kids would want to participate in.
"Most kids said basketball. It made sense. In basketball, you have to communicate," Edwards said. "If we can get the youth the communicate with these officers, then we can develop some type of relationship outside of being stopped."
Edwards says the 13-15 age range is the best group to try to build a rapport with the kids in his beat.
"We want to develop a partnership with them. That was the age group that approached me and said, 'Hey officer, you're pretty cool,'" Edwards said. "That is the age group that begins to join a gang."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended the first game of the tournament. He said an event like this can have gain traction all over the city. Community members have been more and more outspoken in months about the lack of trust between police and citizens, especially since the Laquan McDonald video was released.
"When there's something wrong, we're going to do deal with it," Emanuel said. "When there's something right, we can hold it up as an example to the city and replicate it."
One of the players Friday was Charles Butts. His mother Nicole Good said anything that keeps him busy is all right with her.
"How it is nowadays, the police are criticized for different things. This should steer things in the right direction," Good said. "Hopefully, my son can use this so he can go to college and travel the world."
Ald. Danny Solis (25th) echoed Good's sentiments by saying that games like this can bring communities together and show that the trust issues stem from actions by a small minority of police officers.
"This is the way it should be. The idea that police officers serve and protect is true, but there needs to be more than that," Solis said. "There has to be a connection with the community. Because of the issues we've had with a small groups of cops, there's some anger."
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: