Students and officers face off for friendly basketball game

(WMC-TV) - There are still four weeks to go before the Mitchell High School basketball team opens its seasons, but fans are still packing the gym.

They are getting some first glimpses at their Tigers and their unusual opponents.

"I thought they were going to come out talking and stuff, try to make us mad, but they play like a regular team," said Mitchell High School freshman Kylan Phillips.

The team they are facing is the Memphis Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit, who swapped out the blue uniforms for blue jerseys as part of a new program with Memphis City Schools.

"See us in a different light, other than always, 'put your hands behind your back,'" said Lt. Dennis McNeil.

The police department wants to use basketball to break down the barriers between children and police.

"We want to establish a comfort level with our youth and the police department, because at the end of the day, we want to be viewed as an ally and as a friend," said Julius Beasley with the Memphis Police Department.

For the students, it provides a chance to see the officers beyond the badge.

The purpose of the pickup game between Mitchell High School and the police officers goes well beyond basketball, but that does not mean both sides don't want to win.

Officers said the real part of the program is for them to come back and talk about specific issues with students.

Mitchell High School was the third school the Memphis Police Department has played so far, and it hopes to hit the court with every school in the city.

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