Then: Organizers Roger Sherratt and Ray Sousa (far right) encourage youngsters to take part in the first Police Pedal Cycle Gymkhana, back in 1969. *Bermuda Sun archives
Then: Organizers Roger Sherratt and Ray Sousa (far right) encourage youngsters to take part in the first Police Pedal Cycle Gymkhana, back in 1969. *Bermuda Sun archives
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Top cops racing pedal cycles alongside neighbourhood youngsters might not be the most obvious crime-fighting tactic.

But the Police Cycle Gymkhana resurrected a 41-year-old tradition designed to improve relations between police and the community.

The man who founded the event in 1969, Ray Sousa, said he was pleased to see it making a comeback.

“I am as convinced now as I was in the 1960s that it is important such events are held, if the Police want any chance of gaining and keeping the respect of the youth,” said Mr. Sousa.  

“If you don’t try to help young people become good citizens, there is a chance they will go off the rails and become criminals.”

The former officer said the issues facing Bermuda in the sixties were similar to those the police face today.

Mod Squad

“When I joined the police force in 1969 there was a lot of mistrust between the police and youth, particularly black youths,” he said.

Mr. Sousa combined with the YMCA to set up the event because he said the police did not have enough community respect to run the gymkhana on their own.

He said a mixed race organizing committee — styled after a popular detective show at the time called the Mod Squad — had helped make the event a reality, with support from black and white communities.

“The original event succeeded because Bermudians from all walks of life, despite any prejudice they might have had, were willing to ‘Give Peace a Chance’.

“I was absolutely delighted to hear that the Police Service has revived the Pedal Cycle Gymkhana as part of their Police Week celebrations.

“I can’t think of anything more important at this point in Bermuda’s history than trying to bridge the gap between the police and young people, and the best place to start is with young children.”

Another former officer who helped to organize the original event, Roger Sherratt, said: “We held our first two Police Pedal Cycle Gymkhanas in Bernard Park and they attracted more than 500 children and thousands of spectators.  

“We moved it to the Police Sports Field at Prospect and I ran it for about 10 years after Ray left.”

Revival

Mr. Sherratt helped to organize Saturday’s event — the first in 17 years.

He said: “The Gymkhana was always a popular annual event for young children, with visits by uniformed police officers to primary schools and most secondary schools key in encouraging the kids to participate.”