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Having a BLAST with Youths

Pensacola Police officers and attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s Office had a BLAST Tuesday (Sept. 13) with students at Camelot Academy.

The event – Building Lasting Relationships Between Police and Community- is geared toward interactions with at-risk youths to help them gain positive understandings of law enforcement.

Included in the day’s activities were role playing and information sharing on use of force, hypothetical crime and injustice, traffic/street stop simulations, and home/domestic law enforcement officer responses.

Pensacola Police Chief David Alexander III recounted the story of how a police officer named Joe Martin once helped a 12-year-old youth named Cassius Clay to get interested in boxing. The widow of the boxer, who later changed his name to Muhammed Ali, said the interaction between Martin and the young man was a reminder that ‘when a cop and an inner-city kid talk to each other, then miracles can happen.”

“We – youth and police – are all key PLAYERS (Police Legitimacy and Youth Engagement Equals positive Results) in making our communities safer,” Alexander said.

Key players in BLAST included representatives from city government; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Probation & Parole, local pastors, and the staff at Camelot Academy.

Camelot Academy, 401 Brigadier St., Pensacola, is an alternative education site attended by students who have had challenges in public schools. At Camelot, they receive help and guidance with their issues and get a new start with their behavior and academics. Most students, ranging in age from 11 to 18, successfully return to their original schools within six months.

The day ended with a basketball game between students and law enforcement personnel. The students won: 15 – 12.

“The children won the game, but we were all winners in the event,” Alexander said.

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