Last week the Plant City Police Department took to the field to face off against some of the area’s local after-school students in kickball.
Last Thursday several members of the Plant City Police Department made their way to the Sadie Gibbs Martin Community Center to face off against some of the Parks & Recreation department’s after-school students in a game of kickball.
Two games were played, with the police department facing off against kids from kindergarten, first grade and second grade in the first contest while the second game included kids from third, fourth and fifth grade. Around 50 after-school students were able to participate in the games and despite the department’s efforts, Plant City Police Chief James Bradford noted that the kids were able to come away victorious in both contests. In addition, the Parks & Rec department provided snow cones for all those in attendance.
“It was a good time to get out of the office, mingle with the kids, let them do something different and just create some positive interactions,” Bradford said. “They loved it and they took it very seriously, especially the older kids, they were in it to win it. The younger kids had fun too and unfortunately we got beat by both teams, but that’s ok. They had a lot of fun.”
The kickball games are part of an ongoing effort from Bradford and the rest of the department to build lasting connections between themselves and kids throughout the Plant City area, providing them with an opportunity to have a little fun outdoors and spend time with the officers while they’re not on duty. Last July the police department took part in their first Cops & Kids Chili Cookoff at the Planteen Rec. Center before Bradford met with Julie Garretson – now the director of Plant City’s Parks & Recreation Department – to find more ways for the department to organize more kid-centered community events. This ultimately led to their Kids vs. Cops dodgeball game held later in the month.
“When we do things like this, it gives the kids the opportunity to see us in a different light,” Bradford said. “And what better way to engage with people in general than doing it over food or doing it over sports, those are usually some common denominators. I think this was a good time and when they laugh and smile, we laugh and smile, we all have a good time, it means much more than seeing us around town or driving around in our cars. It provides a bridge between us and them so that in the future, they can remember what a good time it was.”
The Plant City Police Department plans to hold more events with the Parks & Recreation Department in the future and is currently in the process of planning an after school reading program with students at the Bruton Memorial Library – taking place once per month, starting this upcoming fall – in partnership with the Rotary Club of Plant City.
“They definitely enjoyed each other’s company and having that community connection,” Garretson said. “We’re looking forward to doing more. We’ll do some sort of game this summer with the summer camp kids and also incorporate the fire department in the future, maybe a Police vs. Fire game that we come and watch or something like that just to get that fun community feel. The ultimate goal is for the kids to see that our law enforcement and first our responders are real people that care about them, not to just keep them safe, but that they also care about their school work and their athletics and things of that nature. Chief Bradford has done an awesome job of coming in and making sure that his staff understands the need for that community involvement.