ROXBURY, NJ – Monique Ferguson, of Wharton, warned her son and husband they really shouldn’t be out on the Landing Park athletic field to practice the boy’s football throws.
It was Saturday. The weather was beautiful. But the field was closed.
Justin, 16, is the varsity quarterback at his high school in New York City, and he needed a place to throw some long spirals to his dad. Father and son took a chance.
Then the Roxbury police car appeared. The officer inside was white. The Fergusons are black.
Inside the patrol car, Roxbury Police Patrolman Steven Strowbridge watched the father and son for a while before getting out and coming over. Ferguson said she wasn’t sure what was going to take place.
What happened inspired her to later send a photo and message to the Roxbury Police Department praising Strowbridge and the way he handled the matter.
“I did that because it could have gone a completely different way, especially because we’re all on edge right now with what’s going on in this country,” Ferguson said.
Field Closed, But Let's Talk Football
She said Strowbridge initially didn’t even mention the fact that the field was closed. He talked football and athletics, she said.
“He approached my husband, and they had a nice little conversation,” said Ferguson. “They started talking about going to the gym and working out and about Justin and what position he plays. The officer shared with us that he also was into football.”
Strowbridge gently reminded the father and son that they weren’t supposed to be on the field, thanks to COVID-19 and social distancing. But that was a tiny part of the interaction, said Ferguson.
“They ended up talking 45 minutes to an hour, she said. “They just showed their mutual enthusiasm for football and working out, the challenges of not being able to go to the gym and what the officer was doing to keep in shape.”
On its Facebook page, the police department posted a photo of Strowbridge and Justin smiling and holding opposite ends of a football. They said the message from Ferguson was “uplifting,” and they noted that “Justin is a pretty good QB.”
Ferguson said police asked permission to post the photo. “I just said go ahead and share it,” she said. “At this time, everybody is so at odds with each other. Frankly, we believe there are good and bad in every group of people.”
She also noted the police told her the Fergusons should call the department the next time Justin is around and wants to practice. “They said, ‘Reach out. A lot of the officers here would love to have the opportunity to throw the ball around with him,’” she said.
On its Facebook page, the police department said the photo of the black boy and the white cop holding a football represents “Hope. Hope for a change. Hope for a better tomorrow.”