Police Take Members of Youth Empowerment Group To Court, Ball Court That Is

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Ten St. Louis police officers face off with a group of young people and mentors from the group “28 to Life” on the basketball court. The officers spent a Saturday afternoon for its first “Bridging the Gap” charity game in hopes of bringing community members and police together.

28 to Life is an initiative that aims to empower the youth to be strong leaders, or superheroes, as they say, and to improve relations between police and the youth. Community organizer Bruce Franks Jr. leads the effort, which is based in South City. He is also a known Ferguson protestor.

“It’s important to have something like this to show that everyone is human,” said VonDerrit Myers Sr. to the St. Louis American. His son was shot and killed by a former city officer. “Police are human, and this allows them to see that we are human too.”


At the event Franks honored families who have lost loved ones at the hands of police as well as officers who were killed in the line of duty. The three families honored whose loved ones died at the hands of police included VonDerrit Myers Jr., 18, Cary Ball Jr., 25, and Michael Brown Jr., 18. The police officers who were killed in the line of duty, including Nicholas Sloan, 24, Norvelle Brown, 22, and Daryl Hall, 34, and the police team members received the recognition for the officers.

Most of the group’s mentors and youth have had several negative encounters with police, Franks says. “When they were able to meet officers like Sgt. Ross, they didn’t realize that not all officers are alike,” Franks said. “You find those officers that you can link with and bridge the gap.”

Sgt. Todd Ross, of the Third Police District has been working with Franks since he started 28 to Life. Since then the community and police involvement has grown, they say. There are 300 youth members and 24 mentors. Franks has hosted several events where police, including Chief Sam Dotson, have come to speak with the youth. Franks says this was the first community-wide event, and they plan on having more of them.

The game ended in a loss for the police officers team, but overall a win for the community and officers alike.

“We definitely don’t like to lose, we are missing a few key players, but trust me they will be here next time,” said Sgt. Ross.

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