David Shifren carries a chess set in his car.
Its more than a childhood game that his late father Leonard, who died in October, taught him to play.
Chess puts everyone on an utterly equal playing field, said Shifren, a Pittsburgh Police Community Resource Officer for Zone 4 in Squirrel Hill, on Tuesday after a chess match in Market Square. It doesnt matter if you are big or small, old or young, male or female. Your race or ethnicity doesnt matter when you sit down at a chess board.
Your skill improves with time. There is no chance involved. Its great for kids because it helps them develop thinking skills and problem-solving skills. They learn things off the board such as patience and good sportsmanship and gracious winning. So all in all, its a good win.
He and officers like him are using the chess board as a tool for community engagement.
On Tuesdays at noon in Market Square at least through the summer, officers will be available to play chess with the people they serve.
Chess is a great way to sit down and engage with another person, said Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Tiffany Kline-Costa, who heads the Community Engagement Office. It opens conversations.
On a recent community walk in Market Square police have been visiting neighborhoods, interacting with residents and businesses to promote a sense of security an officer noticed people playing chess.
Shifren, who has been playing chess since age 12, went to his car, pulled out a chess set and started playing.
It was well received, so the police decided to start the weekly games on Tuesday afternoons (weather permitting).
Public safety is about more than police on patrol and calling 911, said Kline-Costa. Its about working together with residents and community leaders.
Kline-Costa lost a game to Phillip of McKees Rocks (who asked to be identified by first name only). Recently released from prison, Phillip said that hes turned his life around and that he sees police as human beings.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Tiffany Kline-Costa, who heads the polices Community Engagement Office, plays chess on April 20 in Market Square, Downtown Pittsburgh.
Annie Rudeck of West View was playing chess with a friend.
Chess is entertaining, she said. Market Square is a beautiful spot to sit and play this game.
Chess became the game of choice for Shifren when a previous commander asked officers to work with city kids in a coaching experience.
Shifren, a Brooklyn native, taught kids chess when working in Hoboken, N.J.
He started giving lessons at the Hazelwood library five years ago. The program has grown to the Pittsburgh Police Junior Chess Club.
The kids in this area might not have the resources other kids have, Shifren said. When you teach chess, you learn not to completely outplay the kids, and you also dont let them win easily. Its somewhere in the middle.
He said its a game where you try to anticipate what your opponent is going to do. He said chess can teach children to think before they move a skill they can use in life, too.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop | Tribune-Review
A chess game sits on a table in Market Square in Downtown Pittsburgh on April 20.
Shifren came to the University of Pittsburgh in 1989 for a masters degree in creative writing. Among his writing projects was ghost-writing stories for the Hardy Boys books. One of his ideas was to pen a piece set in a police academy. As research, he spent time in the academy and was inspired, at age 44, to become a cop.
He will be part of a community writing program for kids launching in June.
Former Steeler Maurkice Pouncey, who retired in February, donated $20,000 for community engagement activities and the Steelers matched the amount, Shifren said. Some of the money will be spent on chess games.
We want citizens to see us as citizens, too, Shifren said. I am an ordinary player when I am sitting across from someone.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, email@example.com or via Twitter .
Categories:Downtown Pittsburgh | Lifestyles | Local | More Lifestyles | Pittsburgh | Top Stories
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