NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Newport News pastor is on a mission to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community — and he’s taking that mission to the basketball court.
Four years ago, Willard Maxwell created the “In-Touch Community Basketball Tournament.”
Maxwell said, “I wanted to be a relationship between the police and the community.”
The tournament is a way for community members to challenge law enforcement on the court, while building relationships that extend off of it.
“They eat, they fellowship, and they talk with each other,” said Maxwell. “It’s churches, Boys and Girls Clubs, different camps, different organizations, it’s just whoever wants to pull a team.”
Maxwell says he created the event to build trust and stop the cycle of crime by unifying the community.
“When we begin to create unity in the community, it begins to make the community safer,” said Maxwell. “When the police and the citizens trust each other and work with each other and respect each other, it just makes life a whole lot better and you will have a better quality of life because you will feel safer in your neighborhoods, you’ll trust the police and the police will know they can depend on us .”
Maxwell created the tournament four years ago after he was involved in a car accident and on the phone when police arrived.
“The police officer came out and he was like, ‘get off the phone, get off the phone.’ He was just fussing,” Maxwell said.
Another person helped diffuse the situation, but it left him shaken up.
Maxwell said, “When he came, I just began to think I could have been a statistic. Because if I would have had an attitude, even though I didn’t start it, I could’ve been in jail or dead.”
That’s why Maxwell created the tournament: to foster relationships between the community and law enforcement.
“Some of these individuals who never had a positive interaction with police, make sure that we make this happen so we can break these types of things down,” he said.
Maxwell says he plans to continue the tournament next year. He wants to thank everyone who helps put the event on every year, including Ferguson, which funds the tournament.