PHOENIX, NY — The village of Phoenix community turned out in full force on Saturday for a morning of basketball fun to support its police department’s senior citizen program CHOOSE.
In April Phoenix Police Chief Marty Nerber implemented the Cops Helping Our Own Seniors in Emergencies (CHOOSE) program as a way for seniors in the community to become closer to the members of his force.
Phoenix PD intern SUNY Oswego Public Justice major Justus Stahrr was the organizer for Saturday’s basketball match and he said he was very pleased by the overwhelming support.
With names like The Brick Layers, Carole’s Ballers and The Murderizers, there were eight teams signed up to play in the 12 – 17 year old bracket.
There were a dozen teams signed up in the 18 and over category calling their teams names like Ray Ray and the Dueling Banjos, 2djs+1Gamma and Blue Ballers.
In addition to the team members, local business leaders and residents turned out for the midday event which included a live DJ jamming to the on-street hoop action, food and a dunk-tank.
At 6 feet 6 inches tall, the intern Stahrr was a ringer for the Phoenix Police Ballers.
Asked by Oswego County Today how he got involved putting the CHOOSE awareness tourney together, Stahrr said, “Chief Nerber was gracious enough to let me hang out.”
The police intern added that part of his college education has been learning about the old ways of policing. “Like from the 1950s when officers walked the block and knew everyone,” Stahrr said. “The CHOOSE program is a great example of community policing. It’s something that Chief Nerber desires to bring back to this community.”
As an experienced police administrator, Nerber said a project like the CHOOSE program might not be manageable in a county-wide police “unless you broke a program like this into sectors, with people to manage it.”
But in a village like Phoenix, it is possible.
“We’re not using any additional tax dollars to manage this program,” Nerber said. “It doesn’t cost us a dime.”
New recruit, Officer Cassie Neary acts as the department’s Community Service liaison and administers the program.
“Something we want to do here in Phoenix is get the cops out of the cars,” Nerber said.”When the police automobile was introduced I think we lost a lot with our police.”
Nerber’s CHOOSE program aligns with the US Department of Justice’s philosophy of crime control and prevention through efforts like Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
“I hate to see the windows up and the cop in there just driving around,” the chief said.
As another way to give his force more direct contact with villagers, last year Nerber added two bicycles to the fleet and this year opened an office in the Bridge House, overlooking the river and boating traffic.
“But CHOOSE lets us interact with our senior population,” he said.
Estimating the senior population in the village at about 1,000 people, it is Nerber and Neary’s goal to get everyone enrolled.
“Eventually we want each officer to be responsible for their own group of seniors,” Nerber said. “Right now Officer Neary is taking care of them all.”
Neary said enrollment is easy. “They can stop down if they’re interested, I’ve been going to their residences and speaking with them – giving them the choice if they want to think about it – and leaving the enrollment form with them.”
She notes that in addition to senior members of the community, the program is also extended to others who would like an officer to partner with them.
“I do have people in their 30’s and 40’s who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, strokes and other issues that have rendered them somewhat incapacitated. So, this assistance is available – to check on them like the seniors.”
Phoenix resident and businesswoman Carole Sponable, sponsor of Saturday’s team Carole’s Ballers, said she is enrolled in the program.
“There’s a form,” she said,” or you could write a letter. And if something happens the police have somewhat of an idea what to expect when they arrive.”
Noting things like emergency contacts, the types of medications a person might have, and even the license plate number of the residents car, Sponable said signing up was a very easy process.
Neary added that seniors, or their families could contact her at 315-695-2001 or the village clerk at 315-695-2484 to enroll.