Police patrol courts in bocce standoff


Officer Fahem makes a friend at the PAL vs North Penn Bocce exhibition match on Wednesday

TOWAMENCIN – If you were at North Penn High School Wednesday afternoon, you probably saw all the police cars in the parking lot, but relax… nobody was getting arrested.

The North Penn Unified Bocce teams hosted the local Police Athletic League in an exhibition match on Wednesday afternoon, bringing the bocce team’s season to a close. The junior varsity teams competed against the police officers, while the varsity teams officiated the matches. The first few matches featured the junior varsity teams playing against the police, and then the event concluded with the police officers playing each other. 

If you are wondering who had the advantage in these match-ups, it’s not clear. While the North Penn bocce players have been practicing for months, at least one police officer, Officer Abdenour Fahem of the Upper Gwynedd police department, admitted that he had never played bocce before. On the other hand, Detective Nick Oropeza, who is a member of the Lansdale police department and the father of North Penn unified bocce athlete, Nick Oropeza, Jr., said he and his son had been playing in family bocce matches for years. 

“I’ve had some practice, so no unfair advantage there,” said Oropeza.

The officers also get practice playing many other sports. The Montgomery County Police Athletic and Activities League is a program that was founded in 1984 to foster a closer relationship between local law enforcement officers and local youth in an effort to get local youth to see police officers in a positive light and hopefully inspire them to stay out of trouble. It includes officers from multiple local police departments including Upper Gwynedd and Lansdale, and according to the officers who participated in the bocce match, the Police Athletic League also plays basketball, pickleball, baseball, miniature golf, and softball with the youth of the community. Officer Fahem and Detective Oropeza both stressed the importance of the Police Athletic League mission. 

Nick Oropeza and his dad, Detective Nick Oropeza take a break from bocce at NPHS on Wednesday, February 22, 2023. (Nick Lupinacci )

“[This event is important] to build the community relations and to show the good side and the human side of the police department,” explained Fahem.

“It is a great opportunity for the police to get to meet a bunch of North Penn athletes and participate with them and build that unity, that bond. Sports is always a good segway into building other relationships,” said Oropeza.

How did the North Penn athletes feel about playing against police officers? Erin Chi treated it like any other match. 

“I wasn’t nervous because I’m a champion,” said Chi, who has won the State Championships with a former North Penn team.

Sofia Apfel, a first year Unified bocce team member was also not nervous.

“[I was not nervous] because I’m good at bocce,” said Apfel. 

Both Chi and Apfel were excited about this special event because it gave them a chance to meet police officers and was a really fun experience.