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An Interview with GPD's 'Basketball Cop' About Shaq's Visit to Gainesville

The Gainesville Police Department's viral video last week became the gift that just kept on giving to the department over the weekend.

Officer Shaq showed up. Not your typical Gainesville street scene.

We spoke with GPD officer Bobby White Monday morning about reaction to the initial video, as well as Shaquille O'Neal's weekend appearance.

WUFT News: Your actions have had such a positive impact; do you think the community will have a better understanding of what GPD and departments like that are all about?

White: Hopefully that’s what this leads to. There’s a lot of bad press out there right now on police officers. You know, everyone wants to video tape and show the not-so-pretty part of law enforcement and hopefully this starts opening the eyes of people that this is actually what we do, day in and day out. We’re not always fighting with people, we’re not always arresting people, that’s the very small percentage of our day or week. This is normal, this is what the average police officer does, day in and day out in our country, and hopefully people really start recognizing that.

WUFT News: How does this whole thing go back to your philosophy on community?

White: It’s exactly what it’s about. It’s not about answering those calls of service, it’s about doing the extra. You know, we have a lot of down-time in our job between calls and this is what we should be doing with it, going out there, making contact with citizens, not just when they call us, but in our day to day. This is exactly what that’s about.

WUFT News: As you mention, there has been a lot of negative press and social media out there, do you think that your positive social media has and could have an impact on future social media involvement through departments and spreading that “everything you guys do is community base and you are here for the people”?

White: I hope so. You know, most of us police officers are very humble. So, when we go out there and we play basketball with a kid or if we buy a homeless person lunch or the things that we do every day throughout our job, we’re humble. We look at it as, this is our job, this is normal, this isn’t extraordinary and there’s no reason to share it. So, hopefully this might spark something where other agencies take their humbleness and kind of put it in a box for a little while and get out there. For me, this is kind of shocking that so many people, millions of people think this is extraordinary, maybe now some other officers or other agencies will see it that way and kind of not be so humble about sharing those things and say: we need to change the public’s perception of what we do and maybe start sending in more videos of these things and stories like these and sharing them with the world so that they can see that this is absolutely normal.

WUFT News: How much of a positive impact do you think you have on these kids' lives when Shaquille O'Neal showed up and you came out with back-up?

White: I can only imagine that they haven't had a better day. I think it’s going to be something that they remember forever; hopefully that changes their life somehow. It was pretty awesome. They were pretty amazed, I was amazed. I couldn’t even imagine how shocked they were.

Caylee is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.
Taylor is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org