PAL Cuts Could Leave 5,000 Kids Off the Grass

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Damian Trujllo

    Aaron Resendez just coached his soccer team to a big win over the weekend in San Jose.

    He walked the soccer field at the Police Athletic League, or PAL Stadium on the east side of town Wednesday morning for what may be one of the last times.
     
    Facing 9 straight years of budget cuts, the San Jose police department is pulling most of its staff out of the PAL offices, and putting them back on patrol.  

    There are 5,000 young people who participate in San Jose’s PAL league, but the police department says it has to prioritize where its officers go because of money.

    Resendez says the league has virtually no one to run it.

    "Well, these kids are going to end up on the streets," said Resendez. "This is a confrontation we have about budgets, and where to cut."

    Resendez said PAL is perhaps the city’s best gang prevention tool because it gives young people a chance.

    PAL leagues recruit kids out of poorer neighborhoods in hope of keeping them off the streets.

    Resendez calls the PAL athletes "his gang."

    "Yes, we have a gang of soccer players," said Resendez. "We have a gang of good kids. We have a gang of kids who want an opportunity in life, and that opportunity is here."

    San Jose police spokesman Jose Garcia says PAL’s importance isn’t lost on the command staff.

    "It serves a good cause in trying to keep our youth active and out of gangs and out of trouble. It wasn’t something that was easy to make a decision on."

    Johnny Diaz plays soccer on Resendez’s team, and has seen first hand PAL’s effect.

    "To get out of bad things they’re going to do in life. Instead of go to jail, go to school, go to college, do good things in life," said Diaz.

    Hundreds of parents signed a petition asking the police chief to reconsider.

    Garcia said commanders will look at the numbers to see if there’s a way to keep a scaled down version.

     Not good enough, said Resendez, who worries what might happen to his kids, his athletes, his gang.

    The final decision is in the hands of Chief of Police Rob Davis.