Justice

This Police Officer's Response to a Noise Complaint Is Worth Your Applause

January 22nd 2016

By:
Kyle Jaeger

A police officer in Gainesville, Florida, is being praised for his response to a noise complaint last week. The complaint involved a group of kids playing basketball in a residential neighborhood. Rather than break up the game and order the kids to disperse, Officer Bobby White talked it out and even joined in, resolving the issue peacefully.

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The Gainesville Police Department uploaded dash cam video of the encounter on Facebook, and now it's going viral. People seem eager to share stories of police interactions that show an emphasis on deescalation and community engagement. Those qualities are exactly what police reform advocates have been calling for in response to police brutality in the U.S.

Officer White was recently dispatched to a call of kids playing basketball "loudly" in the streets. In the evening. Having fun. Not committing crimes. Let's see how he handled it.

Posted by Gainesville Police Department on Thursday, January 21, 2016

In the video, White pulls up in his patrol car and begins to talk to some of the kids. There's no audio, but after about a minute, one of the kids tosses the ball to White, who dribbles and takes a few shots. A game of one-on-one turns into a full-blown pickup match, with more kids joining in as the officer continues to play.

Officer Ben Tobias, the department's spokesperson and social media manager, saw the video and decided to post it on Facebook.

"The national conversation of police-citizen relations is not an easy conversation right now," Tobias told ATTN:. "I wanted to show that there are so many officers out there that will take the time to just hang out with some kids on the street instead of arresting them or bothering them, so to speak. There are hundreds of officers that do this every day, and I just felt that we should show that that's how we normally handle business."

In recent months, there have been a number of examples of officers taking the opposite approach — handling noise complaints by using force, for example.

Police reform advocates argue that departments should train officers to deescalate when possible, to revise use of force policy and facilitate community conversations. It's important to highlight when that policy works, advocates say, and this case appears to be a prime example. 

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"We have gotten calls and messages and emails from people literally across the world that are so proud of how Officer White handled this situation," Tobias said. "And the thing is, he does — and all of us — we do things like this all of the time. We just happened to have a camera pointed in the right spot."