ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A local summer basketball camp will have some extra fans on the court this summer, as police officers from all around the area are coming to the camp to talk with the players in an attempt to build trust between the community and police.
350 athletes are participating in the 16th annual Iglesia Basketball Camp this summer. The players are from 30 schools across Monroe County. Many of them, like Jani Washington, impacted by violence happening in the community.
“It’s hard to hear about, especially in your own city, everybody getting killed. I know friends and family, it’s just a lot,” said Jani Washington, a 10th grader at Rush-Henrietta High school.
Not only is community violence on the rise, but high-profile incidents of police brutality, like in the case of George Floyd, have dominated headlines.
With so much attention on police, the camp’s organizer is using this summer as a way to build relations between law enforcement and the youth.
“Important for kids to see police in one light and for the police to see the kids also in the same light so sports is a great equalizer,” said Karen Iglesia, co-founder of the Iglesia Basketball Camp and Primetime Ballers.
State Police, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Rochester Police Department officers will be on the court for most of the camp, talking to the players, explaining their jobs, and shooting some hoops.
“A lot of these kids never even had a conversation with a cop. They don’t know anything about what we do, why we do it, or how we do it. So just giving me that opportunity to show them what we do and how we do it and that we’re just regular people,” said Jason Klewicki, school and community outreach coordinator, Troop E, State Police.
Iglesia hopes players see start to see police in a new light and learn not to fear police but to work with them to end violence.
“I like hearing what they go through and how they handle certain situations, how they were talking to us about leadership, that really helps,” said Washington.
“They just encourage kids, and it’s important that city kids especially kids of color see that not all police are out to et them,” said Iglesia
Iglesia is also looking for future opportunities to connect law enforcement with youth, saying she wants to continue the work on police-community relations.
The longtime coach and co-founder, Gerard Iglesia, of the free camp has been battling kidney disease for years, but a serious case of pneumonia sent him to the hospital. He was given two days to live, but miraculously recovered. Putting on his camp this summer has meant more than anything else.
The 16th annual Iglesia Basketball Camp runs June 28 to July 1.