A Cop's Response To A Teen Caught Sneaking Into A Gym Is Netting A Lot Of Praise

This is the kind of community policing we need more of.

X-Sport operations manager Justin Pritchett had warned the young man already: sneak into the gym again, and the police would be called.

But that didn't stop him. So late this summer, Pritchett was says he had to call the Skokie Police Department to his gym in a Chicago suburb.

"I said, 'hey, buddy," you can't be in here without a valid membership. It's for insurance purposes." Pritchett told the local NBC affiliate, NBC 5.



But when the cops came, things went a little differently than expected.

"He had had a membership, but his mother could not afford to pay for it anymore and it expired," Pritchett explained to the Tribune. "All he wanted to do was play basketball."

Pritchett told Skokie police Officer Mario Valentii that the 15-year-old had repeatedly snuck past the front desk, and at one point even hid in the bathrooms to avoid detection from the employees. The boy, who lived across the border in Chicago, had friends that frequented the gym, per the Tribune.

So instead of arresting him, Officer Valenti asked the front desk how far $150 would go towards covering a membership for the boy. The answer was about four months, but when Pritchett notified corporate about the situation, they made an offer: for $150 from the officer, they'd give the boy a two-year membership worth more than $700. Apparently, the company was so struck by the officer's good deed they wanted to reciprocate it.

"Doing a good thing can be contagious," Valenti told The Chicago Tribune. "I see that all the time."

Valenti took the deal, and they got the boy a two-year membership. It turned out he was actually hoping to pursue a career in basketball and had already been getting scouted for his talent. Pritchett was shocked by the situation. 

]Once they informed the boy what had happened, he told the gym management and Valenti that it changed his perception of police officers, giving him a more positive impression.

"I thought it was really nice. I texted him and I said 'thank you.' That meant a lot," the boy told ABC13.

 Valenti said he's been surprised how often people seem to think police are the bad guys, and in his 23 years on the force he's always tried to make people's lives a little better.

"At the end of the day, it's not about gratitude," Valenti said. "Most of us took this job to help people, not to hurt them. The job can be negative. For the most part, the job is dealing with good people having a very bad day so you're not seeing the best side of people."

Cover Image: Shutterstock / FeyginFoto

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