The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

15-Year-Old Brings Uptown Youths And Officers Together On The B-Ball Court

By Josh McGhee | February 23, 2017 5:57am
 Players from the McCormick-Pederson Boys and Girls Club took on Lincoln District police in a basketball game Wednesday night.
Players from the McCormick-Pederson Boys and Girls Club took on Lincoln District police in a basketball game Wednesday night.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — Abdul Wahab has had a mix of interactions with police.

At his high school Amundsen High School, 5110 N. Damen Ave., he's met some "good officers," but in Uptown the interactions haven't "been so well," said the 15-year-old who organized a basketball game between officers to help change his community's view of the police.

"People feel like the police are out here doing what they want, but they’re actually trying to help us," said Abdul, adding there are good police and bad apples. "I organized this so that the community could get a feel for what the police are out here doing.

"We want them to come together, play with the kids and let the people know that the police are not all bad."

While Abdul was excited for the event, his teammates from the McCormick-Pederson Boys and Girls Club, 4835 N. Sheridan Road, weren't believers until they stepped on the court Wednesday night, he said.

"They thought it was a joke. They didn’t think it was actually going to happen, but once I got it to happen they were pretty excited for it," he said.

[Abdul Wahab, 15, drives to the basket Wednesday night. DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]

A combination of plainclothes officers and beat cops came together with Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) to take on about 13 ballplayers from the club.

While social media might be thrusting police interactions with the community into a new light, interactions like Wednesday's exhibition game are an everyday thing, Lincoln District Commander Sean Loughran said.

"As a department, we’re trying to do so many more things as far as community engagement. This kind of stuff happens all the time you just don’t see it, you don’t hear about it," he said.

The officers didn't hesitate when the event was suggested, in fact, they jumped at the opportunity, he said.

"We come in contact with great kids over here all the time, but seldom do they see police officers in this light... We’re always held as authoritarians, as disciplinarians, as individuals who are not human beings," said Loughran, adding the ultimate take away from the event was that the kids "see us as human beings."

With the officers down six at halftime, Loughran just hoped the kids didn't "beat us too bad," but the battle was far from over.

Feeding off the energy of a turnaround jumper Osterman kissed off the glass, the officers mounted an impressive comeback. With three minutes left in regulation, the officers took a 5-point lead over their opponents.

After a hockey sub, the youths regained their footing cutting the lead to three points with a minute to go. They picked up their defense on the next possession, forcing a turnover and cutting the lead to one.

With 21 seconds left in the game, the kids intentionally fouled an officer, who hit the front end of a one-and-one, giving the police a 1-point lead.

While the youths' final possession was fruitless, Abdul grabbed the offensive board and was fouled on the shot as time expired. The pressure was a bit too much for the young organizer and he was unable to send the game into overtime.

While the game ended dramatically, the event was more about "positive interactions" and "bringing the community together" than a win or loss, he said.

"I think people need to learn a little bit about each other," said Osterman, adding his office is planning more events such as cooking classes to have the community interact with officers. "All those positive interactions I think is what's needed to heal our city. We’re doing a small part here and we’re going to keep doing it."

While he refused to gloat about the victory, there was something he took pride in after the game.

"I’m happy I survived the game with no major injuries," he said.

[Ald. Harry Osterman surveys the floor Wednesday night. DNAinfo/Josh McGhee]