Casper Police Department Capt. Steve Freel and Casper Boxing Club Director Annie Clark pose beside the ring at the new All American Center. The department and the club have created the Central Wyoming Police Athletic League so officers can mentor youth in the sport of boxing.
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Casper Police would rather meet youth in the ring rather than the street.

To put it another way, officers would rather be pals that pains.

The Central Wyoming Police Athletic League (PAL) chapter at the new All American Center will go a long way toward that goal, Capt. Steve Freel said Thursday.

"Casper Boxing (Club) got a new home here at the All American Center, and all new equipment with it," Freel said. "Along with that came an opportunity to apply for a chapter of the PAL league, the Police Athletic League."

The PAL will involve the whole department, which is much better than designating an officer to be a sole youth liaison, he said.

"The kids will see law enforcement in a different light; not the uniformed guy out driving around, but the uniformed guy that will be in workout equipment with them, and helping them and teaching them and being a part of their lives in a positive manner. " Freel said. "It doesn't have to be an interaction out on the street."

Annie Clark directs PAL and the boxing club, which was started by Clayton Jensen about 24 years ago, she said.

The group met in garages, warehouses and storage sheds until the recent opening of the center just south of the Boys and Girls Club at 1701 E. K St., Clark said. "And now we have a home."

She and Jensen had not heard of PAL until a couple years ago when they went to a boxing tournament sponsored by the organization in Salt Lake City, and were approached by one of its representatives, she said.

They told former Police Chief Chris Walsh about the program.

Walsh, who retired earlier this year, was sold on it immediately, he said.

"The combination of between bringing the kids together with officers, not in a visitation setting, but they're working together," Walsh said. "That's the best way you can get to know somebody and gain conversation without some kind of script.

He and Clark said Wyoming was alone without such a program other than when kids got in trouble.

Clark knows what she's talking about, she said.

"I got in trouble my fair share of times," Clark said. "I was one of those kids that was running away from the cops instead of running to them, and now I have the opportunity to maybe make that different for kids and I'm over the moon excited about it."