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Police Athletic League

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Oct, 2017

Profile of our President

(Reprinted from Written by John Mooney)

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- As head of the local SPF Police Athletic League (PAL) and as Juvenile Detective for the Scotch Plains police, Shawn Johnson spends much of his time dealing with teenagers. He views his role as a police officer as an opportunity to help young people out of bad situations.

"We try to rehabilitate, rather than punish," Johnson said in a sit-down interview with TAPintoSPF. "Kids are kids, and they make mistakes. I believe in giving them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes."

Johnson said he cherishes the moments when a juvenile offender walks in with a "tough, 'I don't care' attitude" and leaves remorseful and committed to not making the same mistake again. Johnson says he deals with three types of parents: cooperative parents, ones that say, 'Not my kid,' and parents who say, 'I need help.' 

The detective maintains that while Scotch Plains-Fanwood has its issues like every other town does, our community is fortunate not to have to deal with some of the elements (gangs and widespread drug use) that other towns have.  

"We have simpler things: fights and underage drinking," Johnson explains. "The schools play a big role; students talk, teachers and administrators hear things. We know who to keep an eye on. Sometimes parents will tip us off about a particular kid."

Although drug use is not rampant, Johnson warns that parents should be pro active about where their children go, who they hang out with, and to be on the outlook for changes in behavior. 

"Monitor injuries, especially with athletes. What the doctors prescribe after an athlete has an injury can be a gateway to drug abuse," explained Johnson, who began with SPPD in 1998 and joined the Juvenile Division in 2005. "A more widespread problem is house parties. Older teens like to drink."


Johnson is president of the SPF PAL, which oversees football, flag football and cheerleading in the fall, basketball in the winter, and volleyball and softball during the spring and summer. For many years, the PAL ran the local wrestling program, which now has moved under the Scotch Plains Recreation Department due to a difference in coaching philosophy.

"All of our sports coaches are volunteers. Wrestling wanted to look at paid coaches, and has moved over to Rec," Johnson explained. "There's no animosity. They're all our kids."

Johnson coaches the 8th grade youth football team, which defeated Cranford last Sunday at home. The squad includes a number of 7th graders who are playing up because there were not enough to field a team.

"Parents have concerns about concussions and injuries, but the percentage of serious injuries is low. As coaches, we are doing our due diligence to teach proper techniques of bringing an opponent down: low to tackle, head out of the way," Johnson explained. "No one wants to see anyone get hurt. We want the sport to be popular. I'm an advocate and will do whatever I can to promote it."

The PAL has focused on developing a flag football program that is growing in popularity. 

"For kids whose parents who were reluctant to have them engage in contact, flag football is a way to keep them engaged in the sport," said Johnson, who has a 9-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. "We are looking at expanding the program next year."

Johnson defines success as seeing smiles on the kids' faces and laugher after the games. 

"We want to win games, but we want the kids to have fun," he said. "We want them to remember their experience as a happy time with as much enjoyment as possible."

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