Huntsville Housing Authority uses basketball tournament to help improve teen, law enforcement relations

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Hoops and harmony. That was the message on day one of Huntsville Housing Authority’s “All Lives Matter” Tournament.

The four night tournament used basketball as a way to connect local teens with Huntsville police officers.

“We want to have a relationship with the community that we serve and that’s why we’re taking this step and participating with the Huntsville Housing Authority with this initiative,” said Lt. Jeffery Rice.

The program is a continuation of the “All Lives Matter” campaign Huntsville Housing Authority launched in January as a response to the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri. The organization help open forums among housing authority residents, Huntsville police officers and other community leaders, but teen attendance was low.

“The purpose of this is to have open and honest communication with one another,” said Rice.

In order to play in the basketball tournament, participants were required to attend half-hour mentoring sessions with police officers and community leaders.

They discussed topics such as “Motivation and Character” and “Power of Influence.” They also used role-playing exercises to help show teens how to behave if stopped by and officer.

“I learned that they want you to treat people like you want to be treated,” said Malik Burnett, participant and Lee High hoops standout. “If you’re giving the officer or anybody any kind of dirt or just disrespecting them, then that’s what you should get in return.”

“You have to  cooperate with them,” said participant Michael Roberson. “You can’t get an attitude. You have to be professional and they’ll be professional with you.”

With a focus on both sportsmanship and civic responsibility, officials hope the tournament can eventually become a quarterly event.

“This is not something that’s going to fix things overnight, but it’s a start,” said Rice.

The tournament continues through Friday. All games tip off at 6:00 pm at the Sparkman Homes Boys & Girls Club gymnasium. Organizers will also hold a three-point shootout and a dunk contest on Thursday.

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