SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As we’ve seen all across America these past few weeks, police officers have been the targets of violent protests and political confrontations.
But Wednesday morning in Sioux Falls, KELOLAND News Chief Photographer Kevin Kjergaard witnessed a police officer doing something that was so moving, he had to stop and shoot video.
Heritage Park is home to a lot of the homeless in Sioux Falls.
“A large majority of our population here, especially at Heritage Park and Whittier Park, is transient in nature,” Parks Police Officer Evan Larson said.
But this morning, officer Evan Larson saw something he says was a bit out of the ordinary and he wanted to step in.
“I asked them right away, you mind if I jump in and shoot some hoops with you,” Larson said.
That’s right, Larson, who played basketball in high school…
“I did play in high school, for three years, I’m not saying I was any good that’s for sure,” Larson said.
…stopped to rebound the basketball for a couple of kids, who were in town visiting relatives.
He didn’t know that at the time, of course, nor did he know our photographer, who was hidden out of sight, was capturing it all on video.
“Unfortunately in this park, in the past year, I haven’t seen a lot of children playing on the equipment, using the basketball court or utilizing anything that kids want to utilize around here,” Larson said.
Sadly, he says there’s a reason for that.
“A lot of the stuff we see here is disorderly conduct sort of things; like physical fights, alcohol violations,” Larson said.
Dan Baker, who was across the street working, witnessed the friendly game of basketball too.
“Police are getting such a bad rap and it’s all just negative, I’m not getting political, it’s just the way it is, so I felt the need to walk over and tell him ‘thank you for reaching out,” Baker said.
He even snapped a photo with officer Larson and posted it on social media.
“I got back in my van and it just moved me enough that I had to put a post on FB about it,” Baker said.
Which just goes to show you, it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing a police uniform or a basketball uniform, you can still score a lot of points with today’s youth if you’re willing to make them feel accepted and know we are all on the same team.
“Like I told them yesterday morning, ‘I work the next three mornings in a row,’ and they said ‘well we are staying for two weeks,’ I said ‘I’ll try to stop down every morning if you guys are out playing basketball, I’ll stop and play with you,” Larson said.
The Sioux Falls Police Department tells us officers do this all the time; whether it’s talking to businesses, neighbors, or kids, it all falls under community policing.
These little interactions make a big difference with both the public and the officers.