Squeaking sneakers drowned out any thoughts of incongruity as teen girls and female police converged at Astoria’s Variety Boys & Girls Club last week in a friendly battle for hoops supremacy.
As teams representing the 78th and 114th precincts in Astoria squared off, Murry Bergtraum High School sophomore Cassandra Flowers drove toward the hoop and drew a foul from a girl on the 114th squad. The referee blew his whistle, but not before Flowers, the 78th’s star player, hurled a few choice words in his direction.
“Calm down now,” shouted Police Officer Tamara Beauzile from the sidelines. Flowers turned, her tirade suddenly finished.
“I am calm,” she said with an unassuming shrug. “I’m just saying.”
Beauzile, who is assigned to the Community Affairs Bureau in Queens, stood watch over the six teams as they faced off for the second year of the all−girls Police Athletic League Cops & Kids. She founded the league last year after becoming frustrated with the lack of leagues for girls. She also helped guide her own team, composed of mostly Astoria Houses residents, to its second championship trophy.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I first came on the job 16 1⁄2 years ago,” she said. “When I got to Community Affairs, I finally had the chance.”
Beauzile, who played basketball at Hillcrest High School and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, went around to a number of the borough’s high schools, including Hillcrest, Thomas Edison, Bryant and Newtown, recruiting girls.
The female police officers on the teams are a little more disparate, coming from precincts and divisions throughout the city.
“It’s kind of harder getting female cops to play,” she said.
Some, like Officer Michelle Wallace, 25, of the 115th Precinct, took the opportunity to refresh their skills on the court after a few years of idleness.
“It’s fun,” she said. “You get to see how the game is progressing. Women are getting a lot tougher on the basketball courts.”
Wallace, who said the girls first mistook her for a high school student, said she was glad for the opportunity to give the teens positive contact with police.
“Even if they don’t want to admit it, I think they appreciate it,” she said.
Beauzile said tension between cops and kids dissolves fairly early in the season, occasionally with a moment or two of unusual recognition.
“A kid said last season to one of the officers on her team, ‘Oh, that’s the officer that locked me up,’” she said. “After that, everybody got along.”
Nataysia Brady, 16, of East Elmhurst, played on the School Safety Task Force team with many of her classmates from Newtown High School.
“It was kind of strange to play with cops, but after a while you got used to it,” she said. “The cops weren’t so bad after all.”
Long Island City resident Jasmine Jones, 16, got involved in the league last year when she was invited by an officer her family knew.
“You learned to say, ‘Don’t be mean,’ to officers and use positive language on the court,” she said. “I made a lot of friends — with the officers, too.”
Brady agreed with Beauzile that there are not enough chances for girls to play recreational sports.
“Girls play basketball, too,” she said.
Anyone interested in getting involved in next year’s girls Cops and Kids league can call Beauzile at 718−352−7976.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jewalsh@cn
©2009 Community News Group
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