HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Building better community-police relationships is something that’s been echoed throughout the country in the past year. One social justice program is taking a hands-on approach.
BamFam is a nonprofit that raises awareness and funding for at-risk youth.
On Tuesday, the organization held a ‘First Down Ride-Along’ event at Hays High School through a partnership with the Buda Police Department and the Hays County Sheriff’s Office.
First, a professional athlete, police officer and the director of BamFam went on a ride-along together, where they discussed policing efforts already underway. From there, there was a curriculum-based Q&A, followed by a sports clinic at Hays High School with a group of students.
The sight on the football field isn’t something you see everyday. There were law enforcement officers in full uniform, competing in exercises and interacting with students.
“It’s important, especially in the climate that we’re in today,” Marcus Taylor, a Hays High senior said.
Students said it was nice to see officers in a different element.
“I don’t have a lot of law enforcement relationships, so maybe some of it will create that,” Austin McCabe, another Hays High senior said.
Ian Leslie, director of Community Development for BamFam, led the Q&A between police and students.
“So, why do we have this stigma that as soon as we see the badge, as soon as we see horns, it’s ‘who’s in trouble?'” Leslie said.
Some students asked questions about excessive force and how police officers feel in the current climate in the United States.
“Nationwide, 3% of officer contacts result in use-of-force or violent incidents,” Freddy Erdman, Community Outreach Officer for the Buda Police Department said. “That means the other 97% go well.”
BamFam said it surveys each group before an event and found 40% of the youth it has dealt with since the fall of 2020 haven’t had law enforcement engagement.
“Police officers are [meant for] more than to just show up when something negative happens,” Leslie said. “They need to know who they’re policing.”
At Hays High School Tuesday, the connection is already happening.
“It makes me more comfortable, and I’m pretty sure it makes the rest of them more comfortable,” Taylor said.
The BamFam foundation said it’s organized 26 events like the one at Hays High School in other districts in the Austin area and across the country.
The Hays County Sheriff’s Office and the Buda and Kyle Police Departments all participated at the event Tuesday.