CLEVELAND — Building bridges through basketball — that is what the YMCA of Greater Cleveland is doing as they participate in the RISE program at the West Park family branch.
The program was facilitated by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Under Armor, and is meant to start dialogue between diverse communities and law enforcement.
Det. Ryan McNamara is getting ready to play some basketball with these kids at the YMCA in West Park.
"This is a chance for kids to come out here and play some basketball with police officers," he said.
Kids also got to ask officers questions.
"Any police related questions, some of the questions are tough, whether we are asking the kids or they are asking us, but what’s good is we incorporate basketball to make everything a little easier," he said.
Historically, research shows that kids who get in trouble with police early on are kids who have had little to no positive contact with police, something McNamara is trying to change by giving honest answers to what these kids ask.
"What are we arresting people for?" he said. "Why do we arrest them? Where do they go when they are arrested? Race has been touched on. We try to touch on what they see on TV versus real life."
Delinda Hupka with YMCA says they did not hesitate to run the rise program at their facility.
"Every evening in here we would have between 20-40 kids," she said. "We did have to separate because it was so full."
Detective McNamara knows at the end of the day they still have a job to do away from the basketball court, but he considers this program a big part of his job, as his goal is to foster a safer environment for young people.
"Being here in person standing next to a police officer, it gives these kids a chance to feel safe and not fear the police," he said.