Officer John Bassi hands pops out the window to local children. More photos from the evening can be found here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It is not often police blare the sirens and children from all over the neighborhood come running toward them.
But that is exactly the reaction Officers Darren Derby, Sean Klink, and John Bassi have created inside the city borders. It also helped that the three were traveling in an ice cream truck.
The latest community policing effort hit the streets of Pittsfield on Thursday night with the second annual "Operation Copsicle." The three officers used funds donated by Haddad Motors to rent the Mr. Ding-A-Ling truck for the evening, and deliver ice pops to the city's youth.
"Operation Copsicle is to get out and try to mend that relationship between police and our city's youth. We do that by giving out free ice cream," Derby said.
It started at 4 p.m. when Kink and Chief Michael Wynn took the truck to Durant Park, where the Marilyn Hamilton Literacy-Sports Program was going on. And then the officers moved on to April Lane in the southeast part of the city.
By 5 p.m., Klink called for backup. He drove the truck to headquarters to pick up Derby and Bassi. For the following three and a half hours, the three officers make nearly a dozen stops throughout the city giving free treats, high fives, and conversation to all the kids in the neighborhood.
"It is amazing when you see the kids. They are excited. Parents were reaching out to me this morning when I posted [on Facebook] that we were doing this," Derby said. "It creates a positive atmosphere, which is something that is needed."
The goal was to hand out 500 popsicles and the final number was 456. The trip went to Dorothy Amos Park, over to Berkshire Peak (formerly known as Riverview Homes), up to Francis Avenue, and over to South Atlantic Street. The officers then took a trip down Peck's Road to McAllister, and then over to the newly renovated Christopher Porter Park on Highland Avenue.
They found the largest number of children greeting them at Dower Square. The truck weaved to Seymour and up to Lincoln and Second Street. It stopped by Morningside School, Springside Park, and concluded on Bossidy Drive off Benedict.
At each stop, they found eagerly awaiting children, some who chased them down the road, others who piled into vehicles with their parents to follow them. The Lincoln and Second Street stop was one the officers had identified early as a hot spot because of known birthday party activity for a 12-year-old.
Chief Wynn led the way to each stop, flashing the blue lights and making announcements alerting neighbors of their arrival. With Klink behind the wheel of the ice cream truck, and music playing over the loud speaker, children came out in droves. Derby and Klink hopped out of the vehicle, talking with the children, while Bassi took the orders.
Officer Darren Derby also found time to talk a selfie or two.
As Derby and Klink chatted with the children, for they already knew most of their names and a lot about them. That's because they've been there many times. The operation is just one of many in a deliberate attempt by the three to engage the community.
For the last handful of years, Derby and Klink have grown the city's community policing efforts by leaps and bounds. From reading to children in schools to playing sports through the Basketball Cop Foundation to ice cream, the two have a goal of building a positive relationship with the city's youth.
On a typical day, officers tend to interact with people in negative situations. The community policing efforts help to plant a positive memory in the city's youngest mind so if in the future there is something they need help with, they know they can trust the officers.
"It is a different way for them to view our police officers. It shows the human side and it gives us an opportunity to interact with our city's youngest residents in a positive way," Wynn said. "And they'll remember that. So hopefully if we have to deal with them in the future, they understand that they can approach us."
This was the second year of Operation Copsicle, and the Police Department heavily used its Facebook page to let the community know where to find them. The trip around the city with the truck comes just a few weeks after another ice cream-related police effort was held at the Common — Cones with A Cop.
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