Durham police working to 'Heal the Gap' in community

DURHAM (WTVD) -- Durham police officers are working to "Heal the Gap" in the community with a friendly game of basketball.

The effort comes in wake of the recent violence involving police officers.

The friendly game of hoops meant a lot to kids and cops at the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club Wednesday.

It's one element of "Heal the Gap" - a program bringing Durham police and the community together.

"When the officers started coming here, there was apprehension, but after the first visit, I see a welcoming now," Boys and Girls Club Executive Director James Johnson said.

Johnson started the program about a year ago after stories about negative encounters with officers made headlines, and influenced opinions.

"I felt like they were just mean and killing people, cause that's what I saw on the news," said Matthew Thompson, who attends the Boys and Girls Club. "But now that they come and interact with us, I don't feel that way."

They do more than play ball, there's bonding over board games, and candid conversations with the kids.

"Having people look at me differently and call me names, say things to me. I'm not that person! That's not me. You know," said Sgt. LM Kirkman with the Durham Police Department.

Johnson knows. He's a retired NYPD officer.

"And I'm proud to say that I was a first responder to 9/11, and I'm even prouder to say that I'm a first responder in some of these young people's lives," he said. "Sometimes I'm the first to say I care about you."

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