In Harrisburg, a police video that's getting positive attention

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Apr 30, 2015 3:56 AM

Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Harrisburg Police Officer Josh Hammer talks with 12-year-old Jeremiah Whittington a day after their one-on-one basketball game video went viral.

(Harrisburg) -- Some midstate police officers are trying to fight the perception they're not concerned with serving the community.

Harrisburg Officer Josh Hammer, a member of the Street Crimes Unit, was on a regular patrol in the city's Uptown neighborhood when something caught his eye.

A man was upset with two African American kids, so Hammer and his partner Sargeant Milo Hooper intervened, in an effort to protect the kids.

"I don't think it came off really great, we didn't really connect, but then the basketball started playing, you could kinda feel that barrier being broke, and the relationship grew from there," recounts Hammer.

Full uniform and all, Hammer went one on one with 12-year-old Jeremiah Whittington on a milk crate nailed to a telephone pole.


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

The old hoop, just a milk crate and basic backboard.

Hammer says in his six years as part of the Street Crimes Unit, he's probably played between 30 and 40 games like that, but this one was captured on video.

It's been liked, shared and viewed by tens of thousands on Facebook, and led to an anonymous donation of a hoop and six basketballs.


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

The new hoop is assembled by some neighborhood volunteers. It was donated by an anonymous community member.

Hammer hopes beyond the gifts, the encounter can turn around the conversation in neighborhoods like Uptown, and start to create a level of trust.

"You know, we're not all about arresting people and locking people up, that there's more to this policing job than that," he says.

"If this built two of these guys on our team, you know, the police, that they're comfortable with us, it worked, it did it's job."


Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Officer Hammer and Michelle Landolfa, who took the video from her second floor window and posted it to Facebook.

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