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Dyckman Park in Upper Manhattan – home of the legendary NCAA and NBA sanctioned Dyckman League and the “street basketball mecca” – hosted the first NYPD Blue Chips basketball championship in entire city on Tuesday August 17.
For the creator of Blue Chips NYPD, Lt. Michael Almonte, the finals were the culmination of the dedication of the 200 NYPD police officers, who meet “their children” for mentoring sessions and sports training on Tuesdays and on game days. Thursdays.
Almonte and NYPD agent Darnell Gatling have offered the year-round program, which aims to bridge the gap between police and youth through mentorship and sports and is administered by the NYPD Patrol Services Bureau. They pitched their idea to NYPD Patrol Leader Juanita Holmes, who immediately embraced their concept.
The Blue Chips program officially started on July 1 and has already proven to be a great success in that short period of time, with almost 1,000 young people participating.
Almonte and Gatling shared that they have seen a positive change in kids and their attitude towards cops.
“It’s amazing. You these kids, they don’t call the officers cops. It’s ‘the coach’,” said Gatling. “They see them as big brothers and mentors, more than anything. see real joy when they walk into the gym. They see their trainer; they’re ecstatic. We see these kids kissing their trainer, and that bond is unbreakable. “
Almonte explained that some of the children were surrounded by gang members and were recruited by them, but the basketball team took them away.
“Because they’ve developed this strong bond with their coaches, with the cops, they don’t want to be associated with these kids anymore,” Almonte said. “They want to continue in the program. And our job here as officers is not to show that every cop is good or that no cop is bad. It’s having real conversations, letting kids know we’re human.
He stressed that the goal of the programs is to build a solid foundation for children and create a generation of leaders.
“These kids are the future cops, the future lawyers, the future advisers, the future presidents,” Almonte said.
Patrol Bureau Chief Isa Abbassi noted that Blue Chips goes beyond athletics and sports.
“It’s about mentoring and career development. More importantly, it’s about building relationships, ”Abbassi said. “The relationships you build with each other and with the police are going to take New York City through the next generation in police and community relations.”
Deputy Commissioner for Community Partnership Chauncey Parker said the NYPD has invested its resources in young people because officers care.
“It’s because we love you,” Parker said. “That’s why these policemen are risking their lives. That’s why they became police officers, it’s to help people just because they love the community they serve, especially the young people, and today is a prime example of that.
Dip on the court that saw basketball greats Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, finalists for the 111th Precinct in Queens North and 17th Precinct in Manhattan South, played in front of a packed “house” with other Blue players. Chips, family members and NYPD agents cheer them on.
Both teams came undefeated after seventy-two teams from 75 ridings played for a place in the final during the regular season.
After a tense second half, Manhattan beat Queens – by a single point – to claim the coveted trophy.
111th Precinct Blue Chips players Yianni Xaras, Brendon Lee and Matthew de Leon agreed that the program, which also included graffiti and community work, provided a great opportunity to spend the summer.
“Playing in the summer is the best thing I can do to stay healthy. I learned to be more athletic and to work better with my team, ”said Yianni Xaras, 17.
Brendon Lee, 17, said relations between the NYPD and the players have improved.
“I think our relationship has grown like over the summer. I learned to lead and help the community with the cops, ”said Brendon.
Matthew de Leon joined the program on the recommendation of his high school coach and because he “didn’t have the opportunity to play here”.
Of his team, he said: “I feel like we don’t have ‘a’ better player. I feel like our team is a collaborative team and everyone is equal.
The program doesn’t just benefit teenagers. Mentoring and coaching 12 to 17 year olds boosts police morale, who say the program has enriched their lives.
NYPD youth coordinator Michael Cillis, who also serves as the 111th Precinct’s Blue Chips mentor and head coach, said the players treated him like a friend of theirs.
“During COVID and everything that happened over the last year, a lot of us were down with our jobs and not very happy,” Cillis said. “Then we launched this program, and it just shed new light on what I’m going to be working for. “
Her assistant coach, NYPD Youth Coordinator Kristen Kirby, added, “Having this relationship with kids makes us more positive. They enjoy spending time with us and enjoying our company, and vice versa. So I think it’s an enrichment.
17th District Blue Chips head coach NYPD Officer Hakim Constantine said of his team: “The kids came together for the season and they gave us one hell of a season. “
Constantine said he immediately jumped at the opportunity to join the program and said it was necessary given the increase in crime and violence among adolescents. He stressed that it’s not just about athletics but, more importantly, giving teens the tools to be successful in life.
Constantine explained that the program offers workshops to help youth write resumes, dress for success and have financial information, as well as an opportunity to talk about personal issues.
“Sometimes they forget I’m even a cop. They tell me about issues that are unfolding not only in the community but also in the family, ”said Constantine. “They can understand me if I am an older brother figure, if I am a father figure, or if I am just an authority figure. A lot of [teenagers], they need someone to turn to.
Young people interested in signing up to Blue Chips can contact [email protected], or visit their local constituency.