What Happens When Police Officers Sponsor A Chess Club For Kids?
Kevin Stephenson, a community liaison officer for the Virginia Beach Police Department, plays chess with a student. Photo: Tess Crowley / The Virginian-Pilot.

What Happens When Police Officers Sponsor A Chess Club For Kids?

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Chess takes center stage in an initiative by a prominent police department in the state of Virginia to establish positive relationships with kids in their community. In fact, it is the heart of a new community liaison program.

Blue Knights Chess Club

The Youth Services Unit of the Virginia Beach Police Department created Blue Knights, a chess club, as a summer program for kids. At the first meeting, 37 students registered to participate, and more than a dozen police officers played chess with them. As the police department promoted the chess club, it also made sure that students and their parents understand the benefits of chess: 

Blue Knights Chess Club
The online announcement of the chess club specifically mentions the benefits of chess for kids. Image: Virginia Beach Police Department.

Why Police Officers Began Chess Club

The officers began the Blue Knights to provide opportunities for them and the kids to interact in a relaxed setting. One goal is for the students to feel more comfortable interacting with officers when they need help or have information about a concern in their community that requires police intervention.

The Virginia Beach Police Department used social media to promote the youth summer chess club.

The chess club is a community liaison program of the department to build relationships with students in middle school (grades six through eight). The officers are using the once-a-week chess club to build relationships with children in the community and to develop a more comprehensive way of community policing and violence prevention. Parents can also stay and watch the games.

Lt. Kevin Lokey
Caption: Lt. Kevin Lokey, who started the chess club, explains its goals to media representatives. Image: WVEC video.

The club met weekly during the summer when school was not in session at the Virginia Beach Law Enforcement Training Academy on Thursday nights. In related programs, officers play basketball and participate in other activities at recreation centers.

Dale Stanley, police officer
Caption: Dale Stanley, a Virginia Beach Police Officer, studies his next move during the summer youth chess club. Photo: Tess Crowley / The Virginian-Pilot.

Chess Club Offers Strong Mentorship Opportunities

In a media interview, Chief Paul Neudigate of the Virginia Beach Police Department said that the liaison programs tell “the community that we are not just the police, we are one of you. We are your neighbors, our kids go to your schools, we go to the same restaurants.”

Blue Knights Chess Club
Police officers welcome middle school students each week to the Blue Knights Chess Club. Image: WVEC video.

He said that his department is putting more effort into focusing on the city’s youth to provide strong mentorship opportunities. The chief added: “We’ve got our Blue Knights Chess Club; we’ve got our officers in the rec centers this summer.”

Chess Experiences Of Students

The chess experiences of the students vary significantly. Some have played chess for up to eight years. Others are just beginning to learn the game, and beginners receive instruction from local chess coaches.

HRCA Executive Director Christina Schweiss
HRCA Executive Director Christina Schweiss discusses the life benefits of chess. Image: WVEC video.

Hampton Roads Chess Association, a club affiliate of U.S. Chess, supports the Blue Knights with resources, and its partnership helped to make the club a reality. HRCA Executive Director Christina Schweiss said, “Chess helps kids make good choices.” Actually, chess does much more as my article “Benefits of Chess for Kids” for ChessKid explains.

Chess helps kids make good choices.
—Christina Schweiss of Hampton Roads Chess Association

The following video report by TV station WVEC (13 News Now) captures the spirit of the summer chess club.
The Blue Knights continued to meet until another school year started at the end of last month. Let’s hope that chess can continue to be a component of the police department’s outreach to students and that this program can be modeled in other communities so more kids can interact with officers in a relaxed setting.

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