Before he went out on the streets to work the midnight shift, North Charleston Police Officer Veandre Wright had some business to settle: coaching the Sweepers in the Cops Athletic Program semifinals.
His team of middle- and high-school boys had been training and competing all summer long in CAP, a basketball league organized and coached by neighborhood and school resource officers in the North Charleston Police Department.
On the night of July 24 in the North Charleston High School gym, the Sweepers notched a decisive 45-30 victory over the Reapers to advance to the finals against the reigning league champs, the Big Ballers.
On the sideline after the game, one of the Sweepers gave Officer Wright a nod of respect: "Yeah, he cool."
Police Chief Reggie Burgess came up with the idea for CAP while serving as deputy chief in 2013. It started with a handful of neighborhood basketball teams that eventually grew into a full competitive league during the high schools' summer off-season — and then CAP started adding new sports.
Today, CAP runs a T-ball league for 4- and 5-year-olds, elementary-school karate classes, a lacrosse league, step team competitions, a Black History Month program, a summer spelling bee, and a full-season powder puff football league for high school girls in the fall.
Officer Angela Wilcome, who serves as program coordinator, said it helps patrol officers and school resource officers connect with teenagers and children in the communities they serve.
As an added bonus, if kids are playing sports with police officers, they can't be getting into too much trouble.
"We've got 72 kids here that might be out on the streets otherwise," Wilcome said on the night of the semifinals.
Shantel Jones said she signed her 13-year-old son Joseph Tolbert up for the league partly to keep him out of trouble during the summer months. The league provides all the uniforms and equipment, and her son's coach even picks him up for games and practices when she can't make it. On the night of the semifinals, she watched proudly from the bleachers.
"I want him to stay focused," Jones said.
Over by the Big Ballers' bench, 13-year-old Jerome Simmons said he'd enjoyed getting to know his coach, Officer Jamaronn Nathan.
"He's very supportive," Simmons said. "He always wants the best for us."
In the end, the Big Ballers defended their title, edging out the Sweepers 28-27 in the finals on July 26.
For Officer Wright, who grew up playing recreation-league basketball, it's all part of the job. There are many ways to protect and to serve.
"They just sent an email out, and I like working with kids," Wright said. "I just want to help the kids, help the youth grow."