MIAMI — Competition was fierce as local kids and law enforcement battled it out for the title of champion in the Fall Classic Youth & Cops Basketball Tournament.
Held at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreation Complex in Miami Gardens, the fourth annual tournament featured 11 teams, each made up of children and police officers or employees of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida (USAO-SDFL) .
“It’s not the youth against the cops; it’s youth with cops,” said JD Smith, Law Enforcement Coordination and Community Outreach Section Chief, USAO-SDFL.
The tournament was won by the North Miami Beach Police Department, USAO-SDFL finishing second. But more important than victory was the opportunity for kids and law enforcement to mingle and get to know each other.
“I love seeing the departments come out,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Browne. “Agents identify children in their communities and encourage them to come play and show off their talents.”
Kevin Santos, a USAO-SDFL supervision contract specialist and former Coral Gables High School basketball player, already knew the kids on his USAO team.
“I coached all of these kids in the We Are the Academy recreational league,” he said. “All of them are very talented players. I wanted to give kids from different backgrounds the chance to play and interact with our community law enforcement partners. As soon as they had the opportunity to represent the US Attorney’s office, they jumped at the chance and immediately said yes.
The idea for this tournament came from a town hall meeting a few years ago where young people said they thought the police weren’t nice people.
“But they had had no interaction with the officers,” Smith said. “An event like this humanizes people and helps break down barriers. It gives our youth a glimpse of the person behind the badge so they can see that they are ordinary people like the rest of us. That’s why we started this.
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, Smith is happy the tournament is back. And judging by all the smiles and high-fives, it seemed like everyone felt the same way.
“It’s great to be back,” Smith said. “It’s funny. That’s what it’s about. You can’t beat it.
Participation in the tournament included the Miramar Police Department; North Miami Police Department; Miami-Dade Police Department (The U); North Miami Beach Police Department; Miami-Dade Department of Corrections; Miami Gardens Police Department; Miami Beach Police Department; United States Attorney’s Office; Miami Police Department; Florida Highway Patrol; and Miami-Dade Police Department Community Affairs.
Special thanks to the Miami Gardens Police Department for hosting the event in their city, as well as to the police departments who provided refreshments for the over 150 tournament participants.
Cut line info for the photo: Members of the United States Attorney’s Office basketball team for the Southern District of Florida come together quickly to design a play at the recent basketball tournament Fall Classic Youth & Cops.