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Touching the community

New football league is part of police outreach strategy

(Published August 9, 1999)

By MICHAEL NEWALL

Staff Writer

As the inaugural season of the Law Enforcement Community Outreach Program’s new summer football league nears its end, Seventh Police District Officer James Thomas feels the result of all his efforts to found the community outreach initiative has been worth it.

"We have had great turnouts, fun crowds and competitive games," said Thomas, who also serves as the league’s acting commissioner. "People are getting so caught up in the games that we already have had to release two newsletters that listed standings and statistics."

The league’s seven teams , consisting of local residents and police officers, have been competing every Sunday morning since June 27 at Bolling Air Force Base and will wrap up the season at the end of this month. The teams play two 22-minute halves of seven-man touch football, beginning around 9 a.m. and concluding by about noon.

"The interaction that takes place at these games is a definite strong step in establishing better relations between law officers and the communities that they work in," Thomas said. "It’s a fun way to bridge the gap that has sadly developed between the police department and many members of the D.C. area. We’re just trying to say, ‘Hey, we’re here and we’re just like you.’"

Thomas said bringing residents and police officers together in a social environment allows citizens to voice their opinions about problems that may be affecting their neighborhoods.

"Many times after the games, the conversation will turn into a type of open forum regarding matters of the law and problems that may be affecting certain areas," he said.

Opening day festivities for the league drew a large crowd that included some leading members of the community. Those on hand for the league’s ribbon-cutting ceremony included Connie Mobley, representing Ward 8 Councilwoman Sandra Allen, and police and Air Force commanders.

Mobley praised the police outreach program and pledged Allen’s support for the new league. Thomas said he hopes that pledge will translate into some financial support, as well as moral support, for the league.

"The expenses of organizing, recruiting and maintaining the league can be overwhelming," he said. "We are trying to do something positive for the community, so it would be nice to receive some support from the city leaders."

Thomas, who has donated his own money toward league expenses, said that so far most of the funds have been provided through donations from businesses and churches but more is needed.

"Any donations that are received would be greatly appreciated and would help to cover the expenses of officiating the games, maintaining the playing field and providing awards for the participants," he said.

Jack Delaney, a Northeast Washington resident who participates in the league, called the league "particularly rewarding because of the strong community effort that has been involved."

"Coming out here and playing a little football allows for everyone involved to interact at a more relaxed and comfortable level," he said.

More information about the league is available by contacting Officer James Thomas at 202-928-1438.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator