- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - The Jonesboro police officer kept telling the young man exactly what to do, but he wouldn’t do it.

“Keep your legs still and eyes on the ball,” the officer said.

The high-schooler finally followed the policeman’s instructions, and the golf ball lifted off the club face up onto the green. He threw up his arms in celebration, and the pair shared a high five, The Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1bB93AQ ) reported.

The exchange was a snapshot of what the At-Risk American Male Education Network Police Golf Outing was all about.

“What I saw was that these guys had to receive information and direction from police officers even though they were frustrated,” said Rennell Woods, director of AAMEN. “It’s just like life. You have to overcome frustration. You may be in a frustrating situation in life and have to deal with a police officer. You have to stay calm and collected, or you’re going to end up in jail.”



The group of boys, ranging from elementary school to high school age, from mostly north Jonesboro, met a group of police officers at Sage Meadows Golf Course this month for a driving, putting and chipping contest. The event was a chance for the kids to show off what they had learned through the two other practice sessions they had with officers earlier this year.

Most of the kids had never set foot on a golf course, so they soaked up any instruction the officers could give them. However, the purpose of the event was never to make pro golfers out of the AAMEN boys.

“I’m far from being the guy you want teaching you to play golf,” Lt. Todd Nelson said. “We get to see these kids in a fun environment and not a stressful situation. If we, down the line, have to encounter them in a law enforcement, stressful situation, we have a baseline, and we know one another. And it makes us more approachable. You’re always more inclined to go talk to someone you know.”

Woods hopes to continue to hold joint events with the police department throughout the summer, culminating with a tournament in the fall.

Chief Rick Elliott said his department has been looking for every way possible to establish solid lines of communication between officers and the community where they work.

“It’s all about building communication,” the chief said. “Kids got exposed during practice, and they got to open up and see us out of uniform and without our guns. We’re just like everyone else out here having fun. This is just opening a door. You can’t have one event and expect everything to be good from there on out.”

Mayor Harold Perrin even made an appearance, showing off his putting skills to some of the elementary school kids who were competing in a closest-to-the-hole putting contest.

With all the nationwide unrest revolving around a disconnect between police and the populations they serve, everyone involved with the event felt the officers and kids made a connection that won’t soon be broken.

___

Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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