If there ever was a question about whether the kids of La Habra thought the officers who serve their community are cool, now there is no doubt.
Members of the La Habra Police Department on Thursday, July 28, hosted the first-ever Cool Cops summer event at Montwood Park.
Police partnered with the Community Service Department to host an afternoon filled with waterslide rides, free ice cream, music, games and displays from La Habra PD.
It was fun with a purpose, said La Habra Lt. Mel Ruiz.
The community near Montwood Park historically was known as a higher-crime enclave in the city, but officials have made a concerted effort to revitalize the area and engage residents.
“I wanted to do something for the kids down here because years back, this was a bit of a rough neighborhood,” Ruiz said. “We want the children here to know they can trust us, and that we’re their friends. We want them to feel free to approach us without any hesitation.”
Earlier this year, new park equipment was installed and employees with the city have been visiting the area on their lunch break to talk to children about what type of summer program they’d like to see.
The kids suggested water should be involved, and ice cream was a must.
Neighborhood ice cream man, Rafaelo Venegas, and his son, Rafaelo Venegas Jr., cut the city a deal on more than 400 ice cream pops for the children.
“Being a resident and growing up here, I love being involved in the community,” Venegas Jr. said, as he passed out ice cream to his eager customers. “I think giving back is something we all should do.”
Barefoot children with sunscreen smeared across their backs and noses splashed water at each other in a pool at the bottom of giant inflatable water slide.
Kids wrestled in the grass, ate ice cream in the shade and patiently waited to pet Emerson, La Habra PD’s comfort K9.
Water play became a secondary attraction when La Habra PD’s motor unit drove up on the grass and staged under a blue tent.
The children huddled around the motorcycles, asking questions and greeting the officers with high-fives.
For many of these kids, this day is the highlight of their summer.
“A lot of these kids don’t have the opportunities that others do, when it comes to summer activities,” said Katie Elmore, Assistant Recreation Manager. “Most of them will tell you that coming to this park is what they will do the whole summer. As soon as they heard about this event, they started counting down the days.”
Parent Alma Reed, who brought her three children ages 8, 6 and 3, said her children were excited to get involved.
Reed said she believes events like this are important to forge strong bonds in the community.
“I love the idea of building more community interaction to break down the walls that can sometimes go up between the community and police,” said Reed, a six-year resident of La Habra. “I had my kids go up and thank a couple officers for their service. It’s important for the community to have an appreciation for them because they are out there risking their lives to help people.”