Residents young and old came to Marenelli field on Saturday, swinging, missing, cheering and even falling, in the first of many community outreach softball games designed to strengthen the bond between police and residents.
“It shows what police officers are,” said Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea. “They’re just average people like everybody else. That’s important because sometimes they’re thought of as differently and we don’t want that. They make mistakes; good decisions and bad. But they’re part of the community.”
“Everybody’s not a criminal. We want to show them that not all police officers are bad either,” said Pastor Anthony Hunt. “There’s good and bad on each side but we have to get rid of the bad element so that we can all co-exist.”
Donald Wright helped organize the event. He was inspired to get the community together after losing his son.
There’s been tragedy throughout Rockford so I want to speak in behalf of those who have lost children, parents, mothers, even fathers,” said Wright. “I hope I can represent them and engage the community.”
Christian Baptist Church Pastor Anthony Hunt says that the more we persist, the better the outcome.
“I believe if we keep doing this, it’ll become second nature. We’ll just say ‘hey.’ When I was younger, it was ‘Officer Friendly,’ and it was a good thing to see a cop. Nowadays, they shy away, they’re afraid or they get smart. It’s about respect on both sides,” said Hunt.
“I believe the seed has been planted,” said Wright. “Maybe we as a community can grow and resolve some of the issues we may have in the community, so this is a great beginning.”