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Ice cream has always been a unifier. Whether it’s the cooling experience on a hot day or the creamy texture that delights the tongue, ice cream is something that we all understand is a universal pleasure.
The Delray Beach Police Department gets it too. But now the officers want to share their own love of the tasty treat with the community with their new ice cream truck.
Police Chief Javaro Sims is the instigator behind the effort to melt the ice before any of it forms with residents. He sees ice cream as a way to reach out to the kids and parents throughout all of the neighborhoods of the diverse city.
Why does Sims think an ice cream truck will help?
“The purpose behind the truck is that we’re always looking for new and creative ways to engage our community,” he said. “Sometimes you have to think outside of the box to make that happen. That’s something that I encourage all people here at the police department to do.”
The idea for such a truck came to the police chief in a spontaneous way.
“The idea just popped into my head one day,” Sims said. “Then I started doing a little research and I saw that there may be a few other agencies around the country that may have something similar. Once I did that research, I knew it was a possibility that we could do the same thing.”
After he got the idea, he sat on it for a while until the timing felt right.
“The ice cream truck is something I’ve been contemplating for the last two years,” Sims said. “I was in a meeting six months ago with our foundation and I decided to pose the question. I asked them what they thought about introducing an ice cream truck for community relations. There was a slight pause at first, then all of a sudden there was excitement.”
Once the idea was accepted by the foundation, the Delray Citizens for Delray Police, a grassroots police-community relations charitable organization, Sims was off and running with it.
“From that day until just recently, when we unveiled the truck, the organization worked on it,” Sims said. “They reached out to sponsors throughout Delray Beach to help us bring the idea to fruition. We had unwavering support from the business owners, the public, the community and the city government. Everyone played a vital role.”
Making the police more relatable
The history of ice cream trucks goes back for generations. Sims’ own experience as a child in Boynton Beach helped him to realize that even the experience of getting the frosty treat was sometimes a challenge for youth who didn’t have enough money.
“I was fortunate that when I was a kid, I had two working parents, so I really was never faced with not being able to buy ice cream from a truck,” he said, adding that it affected him seeing families that didn’t have the luxury to buy their kids ice cream on a whim.
“Why not let a kid come to the truck, reach their hand out and have an officer place a cone or an ice cream sandwich in their hands?” he said. “I guarantee you that kid will walk away happy, but they also are going to start seeing law enforcement from a different perspective.”
The idea, according to the chief, is two-fold. One is to bring that fun, tasty experience to all kids in Delray Beach, regardless of income. But the other more important goal is to help the kids and the parents to see the police as something other than just enforcers.
“Doing things like bringing kids ice cream helps to humanize law enforcement,” Sims said. “It helps residents to see us as people like everyone else. Sometimes we get so caught with the ‘us against them’ mindset and we lose opportunities to build and foster relationships with the community. So we try to break down what I consider to be invisible barriers as much as possible.”
Sims said that since his roots are in the community that’s what he embraces and tries to spread throughout the agency.
“One of my prerequisites for advancing in the Delray Police Department is community involvement,” he said. “The days of law enforcement staying within the four walls of this building and not engaging in the community are over. At the end of the day, it comes down to building trust. And you do that by engagement, which fosters relationships.”
Empathy is something that the chief feels is essential for moving forward and for the police and the residents to have peaceful relations, he said.
“Sometimes you have to agree to disagree on certain situations,” Sims said. “But at the end of the day, you need to understand or at least hear my point of view and I need to understand or at least hear your point of view. We have to listen to one another a lot more than we do.”