The Pittsfield Police Department is serving their citizens in a whole new way. Officers in this Massachusetts city have swapped their squad cars for an ice cream truck and are handing out popsicles and cones in their community.
Officer Darren Derby was inspired to buy the truck after reading about similar initiatives in Boston and St. Louis. He believes ice cream is a good way to connect with the community. In the past, Derby has spearheaded efforts to build basketball courts and give away toys.
Two years ago, he started borrowing an ice cream truck to drive around his community to hand out ice cream to kids, and this year, he decided to get his own truck. "It is something bigger than an ice cream truck. It allows you to capture and create relationships that potentially can last indefinitely," he said.
In two months, Derby managed to raise $55,000, and this past Fourth of July, he began driving a 2014 Nissan, equipped with a freezer full of ice cream. "The support has been nothing short of amazing. This is their vehicle. This is the community's vehicle. It may be a police truck with logos on it but we're not responsible for this. It was done because the community wanted it and needed it," he said.
Thanks to donations from local businesses and residents, the county police can now volunteer for “Operation Copsicle” when off-duty. “It’s just another tool. I look at it as another tool to create a relationship, building trust in the community not just with the kids, but with the adults,” Derby told WNYT. “They (then) realize there is something behind the badge, there’s a heart, there’s love, there’s a connection to everybody. We live in this community. Our children grew up here, we grew up here.”
Derby, however, is not simply content with the ice cream truck. He also has plans to host movie nights and has fitted the vehicle with a popcorn machine and a projector. "It's going to create a lot of smiles and we don't get a lot of that in our job. Usually, we are there because somebody called us because something is going on. We meet people on their worst day," Derby said.