Officer Darren Derby at this year's Operation Copsicle taking a selfie with the youth.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Police Officer Darren Derby is looking to buy an ice cream truck.
Two years ago, Derby had read about Boston Police owning an ice cream that they used to reach out to the children in the community. He saw St. Louis convert an old ambulance into a truck to do the same.
And Derby is wondering why Pittsfield can't have one?
"It would be sent out on 'missions' throughout the city. We'll bring it to community events like Third Thursday and Touch a Truck. This can be used by other local law enforcement for events," Derby said on Friday. "I'm hoping this comes to fruition this spring."
The concept is centered on the ideals of community policing. Derby said, "there is no easier way to reach out to kids than through ice cream." The truck will make regular appearances in neighborhoods and events allowing the officers to build a relationship with the youth.
"The ice cream just gets them there and that's when you can have a conversation and they can ask you about things," Derby said.
Derby also envisions it being rolled out after a traumatic event in a neighborhood as a way to just check in and make sure the children are doing alright. He said officers now tend to show up at places only when times are bad. He wants to increase the number of positive interactions the youth have with police officers.
In the last few years, Derby has become the face of such efforts, as he and Officer Sean Klink have made considerable efforts to go out of their way to make those interactions. Those actions have not gone unnoticed in the community as donations and support have rolled in. The pair has installed basketball hoops in neighborhoods, built a court at Dower Square, give snacks and toys, and much more.
Derby's work garnered him the Judge John A. Barry Community Service Award, presented to him at the annual William "Bees" Prendergast annual St. Patrick's Day dinner on Thursday.
One of those efforts is "Operation Copsicle." The officers borrow an ice cream truck and tour the city making those connections. All of that, Derby said, is on the officer's own time.
"For the most part, this is on our own time. I would expect nothing less [if a truck is owned]," Derby said.
Derby is now figuring out exactly how to get the funds for a truck. A part of that is figuring out exactly where the donations can be accepted. He is scheduling a meeting with the city's Finance Department to see if he can create a revolving account to collect donations toward the purchase. If that doesn't work, he'll work with non-profits to see if any of them would take it on and own the truck.
He said that when he's shared his vision with others in the community, a number of donors have expressed interest in helping.
"An actual ice cream truck is expensive," Derby said.
He's kept an eye out for potential vehicles that could be retrofitted. He said he isn't really looking for a lot, just "a place for the ice cream." And he is not asking the city to buy it for him.
"The taxpayers haven't paid anything nor am I asking them to pay anything," Derby said.
He isn't concerned about the cost to stock the truck, saying ice is fairly inexpensive. He said garages have offered to help with maintenance costs. The sheriff's department can help find a place to store it.
At this point, it is just a matter of getting through the logistics of getting the funds and making the purchase.
All donations can be sent to the Pittsfield Police Dept. at 39 Allen St., Pittsfield MA 01201, or made directly at the MyCom Federal Credit Union located at 101 Fenn St. across the street from City Hall. Please make checks payable to PPD Operation Copsicle.
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