KCK Police Athletic League to host free football camp ‘Tackling Conflict Together’

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 3:58 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCTV) - A free football camp aims to bridge the gap between kids and police by teaching skills on the field and how to solve problems off the field.

The “Tackling Conflict Together” camp kicks off June 10 at the Bishop Ward High School football field near 16th and Armstrong. So far, 160 kids have registered for the camp. There is room for about 190 more participants ages 8-18 to sign up for the free event.

Before Karl Oakman became the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Chief, he caught passes on the same field where the camp will take place. He played football for J.C. Harmon High School.

“It kept me out of trouble,” Chief Oakman said. “By the time I was 11, I didn’t have a mother or a father. So sports -- track and field, and football -- really introduced me to coaches and mentors.”

The camp will not only teach basic football skills, but also life skills. That includes conflict resolution and problem solving without violence.

“It is really important that we teach our kids at an early age how to control anger,” Chief Oakman said.

This will be the second year the KCKPD’s Police Athletic League is hosting the camp, which will include Kansas City Chiefs Ambassadors.

“We start small and the ripple effect is huge,” KCKPD Officer P.J. Locke said. “This small, little camp is going to open up some doors for many of these kids.”

Through sports such as football and boxing, the KCKPD Police Athletic League builds relationships with kids in the community in non-emergency situations. They offer activities ranging from cooking to archery to hunting and camping.

“Homicides, suicides, shootings, robberies. They have to live in that neighborhood and it increases their depression, their anxiety,” Locke said. “It keeps them inside their block. Our goal is to get them outside their block to let them know the world is big.”

Instead of during a 911 call for help or a traffic stop, kids and police officers can get to know each other on the field or in the ring. Once relationships are formed, they can help youth apply for scholarships, trade schools and other job opportunities.

“We let them know: don’t succumb to social media conflict, getting trapped in a situation where a shooting takes place that’s over something very minor,” Locke said. “Not even a big deal, but you’re going to waste your entire life over something super small. Pulling the trigger on something, that’s it. There’s no pulling that back.”

Oakman said 223 kids attended the department’s first free football camp last year.

“Little kids will tell you if something is not good,” Oakman said. “They gave us an indication this is something they really enjoyed.”

The Tackling Conflict Together football camp starts with check-ins at 7:30 a.m. on June 10 at Bishop Ward High School’s football field. They ask families to register, but walk-ons are welcome.