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Teens Take on Calif. Officers in Basketball Game That Promotes Better Relations

Los Angeles Times

When a group of teenagers takes on Burbank Police officers this weekend in basketball, scoring the most points would be nice. But that's not what the game is about.

"Winning isn't what's important; it's the whole relationship [with the police]," said Salina Coria, a Burbank High School student and member of the Teens in Action Police Youth Relations Team.

The organization's second annual Ball-B-Que tips off at 1 p.m. Saturday in the gym at John Burroughs High School, 1920 Clark Ave. The event is free.

Formed in 2002, the Police Youth Relations Team works to break down barriers between the police officers and the city's teenagers.

Last year's game, which the officers won, raised $150 for the department's Police Explorer program.

"Last year it was close," said Capt. Tim Stehr, who played in the first game and will suit up again on Saturday. "We are getting older, but as long as we can continue to use our wisdom, we'll give them good competition. Everyone goes out there to have fun."

Along with the basketball game, the event will include food, entertainment and prizes. Among participating businesses are Porto's Bakery in Glendale, BJ's Restaurant, Toys R Us and David Gold Identity Apparel.

While the teens see a different perspective of police officers, the officers get to see the teens in a different light.

"That's good for the younger officers," Stehr said. "In our community, they know there are good kids out there."

Cory Celis, 16, said teenagers have misconceptions of how police go about performing their duties. Being on the Police Youth Relations Team has led to a better understanding, she said.

An event like the basketball game allows the teens to see that police officers are "not as strict and stuck up as we thought they were," Salina said.

"After a while, they forget who they are playing against and act like they are with their friends," Salina added.

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