A number of businesses joined the effort as major sponsors.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In March a young boy walked into the bank with $5 to donate to Operation Copsicle.
That was right after Officer Darren Derby had announced his intentions to purchase an ice cream truck. Derby has become the name and face of community policing in the city over the last few years.
He had grown tired of the negativity he was surrounded by and made a change. He started visiting schools and driving down neighborhoods. He gave out basketballs and played with the children on his beat.
"It is something bigger than an ice cream truck. It allows you to capture and create relationships that potentially can last indefinitely," Derby said.
He felt he needed $50,000 to purchase and retrofit a van. That little boy had $5 but that was only a taste of what was to come. In just about two months, Derby had not only raised $55,000 for it, but businesses also chipped on material and labor for the vehicle.
On the fourth of July, Derby turned the key of the 2014 Nissan, all decked out in logos and fitted with a freezer full of ice cream, and drove the ice cream truck in the parade to show the community what it helped create.
"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," Derby said.
Derby envisions the vehicle rolling out to neighborhoods once a week to start. He has a popcorn machine and projector and is looking to set up to host movie nights outdoors on the side of the vehicle. He's willing to share the vehicle with police departments throughout the county for events and efforts. The goal is simply to build better relationships between the police and the community.
"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.
The veteran officer boasts that the entire project was supported by the community and not the city. He said the city hadn't been asked to contribute anything toward the project. While Pittsfield isn't the first to have such a vehicle, there are only a small number of departments nationwide with such a vehicle. Derby hopes the trend catches on.
"It is something every police department can do. You don't need to go to the city and ask for funds. Almost every community has funds to do this," Derby said.
Throughout April and May, donations continually came to Derby from individuals and businesses. Haddad donated $10,000, picked up the vehicle at an auction, and made some repairs. Climate Heating and Cooling donated the interior work. B+G donated a freezer. Duggan Vehicle Equipment rigged up the police lights and other electronics. A number of other businesses were able to provide labor and material at cost.
Last week, Duggan Vehicle Equipment returned the vehicle after the electrical work and Massive Graphics spent five consecutive days, working 12-hour shifts, to get it finished in time for the parade. The wraps were all donated by Massive Graphics.
"I wanted something to pop. I wanted something new age but at the same time had to be somewhat professional and law enforcement style, something geared toward adults and kids. I think we picked the right scheme," Derby said.
Massive Graphics did the wrap.
In the end, Derby said the vehicle is "100 percent" what he envisioned when he set out. Those material and labor donations cut his cost to outfit the vehicle to around $20,000.
Now, he has $35,000 in an account to support further community policing efforts.
"We'll be able to sustain this outreach without having to go for any fund from the city for my guess is 10 years," Derby said.
He said Crescent Creamery has offered him discounts on the ice cream to stock the truck and he said another organization is currently considering a large donation of freeze pops.
Derby did have to figure out some logistics of it and found help with the Church of Christ. The non-profit opened an account under its organization called "operation bridges" and is handling all of the finances for the outreach efforts.
"We had an outpour from the community saying 'hey, we want to donate,' but we couldn't accept the funds because we are a police department and it has to go to the city coffers. We found a way to do that and work with a community-based organization," Derby said.
As the parade finished up, Operation Copsicle made its debut as Derby turned the vehicle around, parked on a curbside, and handed out freeze pops.
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