FLORENCE, S.C. — Local law enforcement competed with teenagers from Timmonsville for the title of champion in basketball, and the teens won.
It was all in fun at the eighth annual Teens and Cops Together basketball tournament, played in Florence at the Pearl Moore Gym on Saturday. It was a close game. Final score: 55 to 54.
The community outreach program called T.A.C.T. (Teens and Cops Together), was born eight years ago from the mind of Heath Gregg, who is a deputy with the Florence County Sheriff’s Department and is a school resource officer. Gregg said the event is significant because it lets the community know that police officers are just like them and it heightens the community’s trust for local law enforcement.
“The most important thing we can do is reach out to the community,” Gregg said. “We want to let them know that we are just like them and that we care about what’s going on and how it affects them.”
Gregg said community service has been close to his heart since he began in law enforcement and he plans to continue serving the community.
“Events like this keep me humble and they keep me reaching out,” he said.
Alex Frederick, who works with the city of Florence, said the earlier you begin working with children, the less trouble they will get into as they grow older.
“This tournament has teens and cops working together as a unit,” Frederick said. “If you start young with the younger kids, you won’t have as many issues as they get older and that’s the mission we are trying to accomplish.”
Frederick said the relationship building that happens as a result of the tournament can decrease violence in the communities.
“When a child has a relationship with an adult they will tell them what’s going on,” Frederick said. “If the cops build a relationship with the teenagers a lot of them will tell the police what is happening before it happens.”
Frederick said she and Gregg had a conversation about kids needing relationships with local law enforcement and it started a movement.
Bobby Muldrow said the event is significant because it shows that teens and cops can come together.
“Teens and cops, especially black teens, have a contentious relationship with law enforcement,” Muldrow said. “It is important that the community sees that teens and cops can have camaraderie and togetherness.”
Muldrow said the children and the police officers need each other.
“The kids need the cops for protection,” he said. “And the cops need the children because the children are our future.”
Ivory Farmer, who attended the event, said it is effective for the teens because they have an opportunity to be up close and personal with local law enforcement.
Kisha Robinson, who had two sons in the event, said it shows that the police officers and the community are on the same team and play for the same mission, which is life and health.
“The increase in violence in Florence is terrible,” Robinson said. “This event shows that everyone cares about what’s happening and wants things to change. It’s time to stop the violence. It is time for peace.”
Robinson said no demographic should be left behind and she said it was critical to get young boys active in things and off the streets.
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