Nassau County has relaunched recreational activities in Roosevelt through its Police Activity League program after a five-year hiatus, a move officials said will build trust between cops and residents.
"One thing that we learned from all the community meetings we had, is that it’s really important that you have a relationship with the police, between community and police. And the younger the community members are when that relationship starts, the more positive interactions you have, then, it just builds trust," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. "When we build trust, the community is safer, everybody is safer."
Curran spoke Monday at the Cloud Center on Roosevelt Road where officials announced a $25,000 check for the program collected from asset forfeiture funds. The money is meant to assist with startup costs, officials said.
During community meetings about police reform, residents of Roosevelt, Elmont and Lawrence asked for PAL programs in their neighborhoods.
Last month, the Nassau County Legislature approved Curran’s police reform plan, which called for launching PAL programs in the three communities.
In 2016, the PAL building in Roosevelt closed. The Nassau County PAL is a nonprofit that is independent from police departments and serves to provide programs for children to prevent juvenile delinquency, according to the organization’s website. Nassau cops oversee the programs and interact with the participants. Activities offered include sports, crafts and education programs, which vary depending on community needs, the website said.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said reestablishing a PAL in Roosevelt will pay dividends for residents and police for years to come.
"We went through a summer of reform, summer of protests and marches," Ryder said. He added community engagement was the top issue mentioned by residents to police.
"We are engaging with our communities. And our PAL program, which is a lot of private volunteers that sign up and do the work, they’re the ones that continue to help us build trust in the community. And it starts with our kids. Those young kids are the foundation that we build off of."
Ryder continued: "If they grow up trusting us, I get a more diverse police department. If they grow up trusting us, I get … better engagement in the community."
Tiehise Shell of Roosevelt, said she is a fan of the program restarting in her neighborhood. Shell was at Monday night’s announcement with her son, Jeremiah Atanda.
"It’s just awesome to have it back because my son, who loves all sports, will have the opportunity to stay in the town," she said. The program will allow Jeremiah to "truly get to do all the things he enjoys" while she won’t have to pay high prices for "extra curriculars that keep him safe," Shell said.