We often disagree with Wendell mayor Tim Hinnant on his legislative positions, but we also believe in giving credit where credit is due.
On Monday night, following up on a magnanimous offer by Wendell resident Ed Morrell to help pay for the renovation of a basketball court in an effort to give young people another place to be active, Hinnant suggested that the town of Wendell might consider creating a Police Activities League program.
What an awesome idea.
Police Activities Leagues – or PAL for short – are programs designed to bring police officers and youth together. They can work together on a slew of activities, from things as simple as playing basketball together to creating a junior police officers program. PAL programs can go out into the community and participants and police can work together on a civic project that has nothing to do with law enforcement.
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The goal of the program is to humanize police officers in the eyes of young people who may see them in an otherwise negative light. It also gives officers the chance to model good behavior and serve as a resource for the young people they work with, rather than being seen as the person who’s going to lock up as many teens as he can catch.
The model already exists in other communities, so Wendell’s police force would not have to start from scratch. Neighboring Garner has a thriving PAL program Wendell would do to emulate on an appropriate scale. The key to a successful program is having at least one officer in the department who is a strong advocate for the program.
In many communities, including Garner, the PAL program pays for itself through donations and other kinds of community support, meaning the outlay of public funds is nonexistent. We feel sure the business and civic communities in Wendell would look favorably on supporting a PAL program.
Hinnant struck on a really good idea. He leaves office next month and won’t have the opportunity to follow up on his suggestion in his official capacity, but we hope the leadership of Wendell’s police department will pick up the baton and run with it.