Local law enforcement officers work to bridge gap with high school football players

BETHEL, N.C. (WNCT) – Local law enforcement officers are tackling tough topics and working to build better relationships with kids in the community.

It’s part of the Law Enforcement and Athlete Dialogue (LEAD) Clinic happening at North Pitt High School.

There isn’t much that makes high school football players from rival schools want to work together, but growing tension between law enforcement officers and their communities has sent shock-waves across the country, and it’s something young athletes want to tackle head-on.

That’s why Wednesday, about 80 football players from North Pitt, Ayden-Grifton, and Greene Central High Schools participated in the LEAD Clinic. They spent hours talking with representatives from the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office, local police departments, local attorneys, judicial candidates, and Pitt County Schools administrators.

“It’s a win-win for law enforcement,” said Richie Williams, Greenville Police Department. “It’s a win-win for our community. It’s a win-win for the athletes we’re talking to.”

North Pitt Assistant Coach Matt Goddard organized the event, after a troubling conversation with one of his players.

“Someone at church had told him that cops were out to get him and white people are out to use him. That bothered me a lot and it really got me thinking about something that we can do and try and clean up this whole situation that’s going on,” Coach Goddard said.

Coach Goddard said change can start with his players, “They’re natural leaders of the building. They’re natural leaders that people start to just bond to with the other students. So if we can get them trusting law enforcement and understanding what’s going on and being more receptive to what they’re being asked to do and whatnot, I feel like it’s an immediate step in the right direction for the entire school.”

Coach Goddard said he hopes to build more interest and keep these conversations between athletes and officers going.

“I do hope that this is a proactive thing and that we continue to have a dialogue. Not just as a combination between several teams, but that our team’s athletes take it into the building,” he added.

“I’m happy that we did come” said Cameron Moye, Ayden-Grifton senior. “More people need to open their eyes and see what’s happening so all can come together and fix this problem.”

“I want to walk away knowing that some of these boys have maybe changed their minds about or re-think about why they don’t like law enforcement,” explained Keshon Cox, North Pitt sophomore.

While programs like this won’t solve the world’s problems, an open conversation is pretty good place to start.

“If we can make a positive impact on them, then, of course, they’re going to let that trickle down to their peers,” said Richie Williams, Greenville Police Department.

The LEAD Clinic took place Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at North Pitt High School.

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