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Stamford's Police Chief Uses Workouts To Foster Unity

Stamford youth finish up a workout with police
Ali Warshavsky
Stamford youth finish up a workout with police.

Stamford Police Chief Tim Shaw was sworn in during the height of the pandemic. And now that the state is reopening -- and embarking on a serious debate about the role of police -- it’s time to unify the community, he said.

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Shaw is taking a unique approach toward that goal. When residents drive by Lione Park on Wednesdays this summer, they’ll see police, city kids and teens breaking a sweat together. 

Carl Michel, who runs the Youth Empowerment Show in Stamford, said blending police and community members was overdue. 

“It shows us everyone here is important,” said Michel. “Everyone here is equal. It shows us no one is more important than anyone else. It shows us we all bleed the same and, of course, sweat the same.”

Michel met Shaw at a Black Lives Matter Rally earlier this summer. The two have partnered to bring police together with the city’s minorities and youth. 

“To be quite frank, as a Black man in this community, I’ve never seen police as an ally until now,” said Michel.   

Three weeks ago, Shaw started hosting workouts across from the Boys & Girls Club. They are now led by some notable Black athletes like Allan Houston, a former New York Knick, and Silas Redd Jr., a former NFL player.

Credit Ali Warshavsky / Connecticut Public Radio
Connecticut Public Radio
Forty kids and officers turned up to work out at Lione Park on Wednesday.

“Based on the circumstances nationally, we have heard a lot of people say you need to get out in the community, build trust, positive interaction,” said Shaw. 

National circumstances, like the death of George Floyd, influenced the state legislature to propose a police accountability bill that saw its final passage by the Senate early Wednesday morning. 

Shaw said he is concerned about the bill’s restrictions on police use of force and qualified immunity, which protects police officers from civil liability. 

“There are some things that we are cautious about, but once it’s signed we have to make it work. But there is still time to delve into it more before some pieces have a start date,” said Shaw.

Barry Woods, director of Youth Outreach for the Boys & Girls Club in Stamford, said he hopes officers will follow Shaw’s example of building positive relationships. Woods said it doesn’t stop there. 

“But then on the community side it’s to encourage the conversation,” said Woods. “Encourage the kids to not feel some type of way when being around an officer.” 

Workouts with the chief will run for the next four weeks. Forty kids and officers took part this week. 

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