Golf outing helps bridge gap between police and community

Golf outing helps bridge gap between police and community

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The Jonesboro Police Department teed off with the AAMEN organization Saturday to inspire local youth.

AAMEN, or At-Risk American Male Educational Network, mentors young men ages 15 to 18.

The organization's mission is to develop character, discover potential and inspire world vision in marginalized young men.

The organization carried out that mission at Saturday's golf tournament.

"A lot of them have never picked up a golf club," said Bryan Bogan, an AAMEN mentor. "A lot of people when they think of sports they think of basketball, football so this is something to help them branch out, help them see something new."

"I was kind of nervous because I've never played golf before," said Johnathan Johninson, AAMEN's president. "This was the first time I had an opportunity to hit a little bit. It's definitely been a great experience. You definitely need patience and I believe golf will teach me that. It's definitely something I will end up picking up."

However, Johninson said the event was about more than learning a new game. 

"There are some officers that actually care about their job and are trying to help people," Johninson said. "They actually have a heart and want to connect with the community."

Jonesboro officers said they came out to the green Saturday to prove that.

"It's hard to hate somebody that you get to know," said Lt. Todd Nelson, who works in the department's Quality of Life Unit. "That's the first part of the process. We're just trying to get to know each other. Spending time together where it's not work related."

The AAMEN organization wanted its young men to team up with local police officers to introduce more positive role models in their lives. 

"They get to see that they're actually just like us," Bogan said. "They don't have to be scared of them. They actually have someone to look up to outside of their parents, outside of their mentors. There are people in the community who are here to help them."

They all agreed the recent cases of police brutality against minorities across the country has created a sense of fear but they want to change that conversation.

"There's a lot that we're not seeing and what we're not seeing is that community relationship," Nelson said. "It's going on. It's happening."

"Just listening to these officers speak, I can see there is another side of this whole situation," Johninson said. "It's not always just African Americans looking at them as the enemy."

That's the message AAMEN hopes its boys can share with others.

"Take this back to their little brothers, their big brothers, their cousins and let them know police are not just the bad guys," Bogan said. "They're not just there to give you tickets and pull you over. They're there to police. They're here to help and we need them in our community."

Copyright 2015 KAIT. All rights reserved.