“Can you believe someone called in a complaint about kids playing basketball in the street?” he asks one of the kids. “Can you believe that?”
The kid’s response is inaudible, but Officer White adds, “I don’t know who called, but obviously I ain’t got no problem with it.”
“I obviously have no problem with you playing basketball on the street,” he says to the group. “Just, if you can, try not too be too loud, you know what i mean? But have fun. I’d rather see you all do this than out there causing trouble.”
8. “People fail to realize kids are going to be kids,” Gainesville Police Department spokesperson Officer Ben Tobias told BuzzFeed News. “It’s important we encourage them to do activities not involving crime. Here, they’re just having fun.”
Officer White is an eight-year veteran of the police department and has a reputation within the force of being a “problem-solver” with a passion for working with youth, said Officer Tobias.
White has responded to a number of calls where youth are reported for a crime, he said.
“Instead of arresting the youth, he tries to find other ways to handle the problem,” said Officer Tobias. “Sometimes it’s through diversionary programs, sometimes kids get mental health counseling. In this case it was a simple pick up game of basketball.”
10. The video has led to people posting notes of support for Officer White’s response to the noise complaint under #hoopsnotcrime.
“It’s a little disappointing in a way that people think that’s extraordinary,” he said. “Hopefully one day people will see that happening in the street and say, ‘Hey look he’s playing ball with the kids, that’s what cops do’ and it would just be the norm. In a weird way it’s sad that it’s extraordinary.”
White said that he believes that officers show this kind of compassion more often than the public may think. But added that it is law enforcements responsibility to build trust with the communities they police.
“It’s our job,” he said. “We’re the only ones who are going to change that and get them to trust us.”
Officer White said he plans to return to the neighborhood sometime in the next few days with a few other officers for a re-match.
“I like kids,” he said. “I’d rather play basketball in the street than sit in my car waiting for a call.”
He has since started a Basketball Cop Foundation using GoFundMe to raise money to build new courts in the community and renovate old ones.
O’Neal travelled to Gainesville to surprise the group after hearing of the story, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
He first met with White before travelling to the neighborhood to greet the kids.
Ben Tobias, a spokesman for the Gainesville Police Department, told the newspaper the NBA legend’s visit was incredibly special to all involved.
“I became a cop to help people, and these kids will never forget the day Shaq rolled up to their neighborhood and played basketball with them,” he said.
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