History of the Police Athletic League
In 2007, we joined together to commemorate the first 50th Anniversary of the first Police Athletic League (PAL) in the State of California in 1957, I’d like to share a brief history as to the birth of the original PAL in the U.S.
About 100 years ago, PAL began with a bang, literally—a rock through somebody’s window! It seems that a gang of New York toughs, harassing storekeepers and generally making life miserable in their neighborhood, threw the rock that eventually pioneered this new approach to the problem of juvenile delinquency.
Lieutenant Ed. W. Flynn of the New York City Police Department Crime Prevention Bureau was on duty that fateful day. To him it was just another day of kids getting in trouble. But, it turned out to be more than that.
Lieutenant Flynn liked kids, and he wondered at the uselessness of always punishing them. He wondered why they couldn’t be reached before they got into trouble.
That day, he made it a point to search out the gang’s ringleader. As they talked, Flynn looked for the reasons behind the kids’ antisocial behavior. The ringleader began to open up, pouring out the frustrations of how life is in the ghettos of New York City. He told the officer, “Man, we ain’t got no place to play . . . nothin’ to do. The cops are always hasslin’ us. We can’t even play baseball in the street and alleys without getting chased away.”
Flynn thought about that. Being a staunch baseball fan himself, he began to wonder again. Why should the police chase kids for doing something normal? Why not help those kids form a team? Give them a place to play under police supervision. Be a friend instead of an enemy.
Flynn found a playground where the group could play under the eyes of friendly and supportive police officers in that neighborhood. The team was an instant success! Before the year was over, there were close to a dozen such teams in the city. In 1910, Captain John Sweeney, commanding officer of a lower-side police precinct in New York City, began the Police Athletic League, or PAL. In 1937, PAL dedicated its first indoor youth center, and in 1941 it became incorporated under the laws of the state of New York.
That was the birth of PAL in the United States. The Daly City PAL organization was established in 1957, the first in California. Since those early days, PAL has become a household word that is recognized by almost everybody. It has become the largest and longest running juvenile crime prevention program in the U.S., with a youth membership of over three million! The National PAL organization encompasses more than 500 cities, counties, and townships.
Besides its tremendous year-round sports programs, for which PAL is most noted for, other PAL activities have also included:
- Youth centers
- Summer day camps
- Educational programs
- Employment training and placement
- Youth mentoring and counseling
PAL is about shaping lives for good citizenship. It’s about building character in our youth. It’s about cultivating in our youngsters an appreciation for, and the ability to achieve, the very best that life has to offer. It’s about caring. It’s about hope. It’s the field of dreams that inspire kids to grow, and to feel good about themselves, and to accomplish things that cannot be barricaded within the confines of rundown neighborhoods or rundown self-esteem.
In short, PAL is about the kids.
Daly City Police Athletic League 50th Anniversary
Watch these two videos about the 50th anniversary of the Daly City Police Athletic League