St. Paul police find success using hockey to reach out to the community

St. Paul police are lacing up their skates in underprivileged neighborhoods, hoping to forge connections with young people.

The six-week hockey program came to be thanks to the support of the Herb Brooks Foundation which has been teaching inner-city kids how to skate and play hockey for years.

“It might make our job easier and it might make it easier for them to come to police when they need help,” said Officer Scott Sandell.

Sandell works in the gang unit. He hopes his interactions with these young children will help form a positive image of police.

“He’s learned that cops aren’t bad people, that they’re there when we need him,” said April Naastad who’s nine-year-old son, Antonio, has formed a special bond with at least one of the officers. “They can come out on the ice and show kids we’re not so bad—we’re just like you. We fall like you. We get hurt just like you. We make mistakes just like you.”

According to the Herb Brooks Foundation, high school hockey has waned dramatically within urban schools the last 20 years. At one point, there were only two programs in the cities.

By providing free equipment and ice time, the youth get an opportunity they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

“We don’t know their home life situation, so this opportunity helps them escape from that… and try something new,” said Officer Sandell.