The kids converged at Washington Middle School on July 17, where three massive inflatable water slides were in place and music was blasting for the third annual Cool Cops event. Free ice cream was also doled out to help the kids cool off on a hot day.
The La Habra Police Department and the La Habra Community Services Department partnered for the first Cool Cops event three years ago at Montwood Park. The neighborhood near the park was known as a higher-crime area when officials collaborated to engage residents and bring a positive vibe into the enclave.
“I wanted to do something for the kids so I thought a nice summer event would be kind of cool,” said Lt. Mel Ruiz, whose idea it was to hold the first Cool Cops event. “The first year we did it, I fell in love with it because I just saw the look on the kids’ faces.”
Ruiz has since retired and Sgt. David Morrison is now in charge of the event.
“I’m happy to see how it’s evolved,” Ruiz said. “For some of these kids, this could be the highlight of their summer.”
After last year’s Cool Cops was held at Las Lomas Park, Morrison, who had been a school resource officer at Washington Middle School, figured Washington’s campus offered more space. As a result, a third water slide was added.
“We wanted to focus on this neighborhood because the past events were on the south end of La Habra,” Morrison said. “I’m proud to be part of this event…This is a fun one because it’s all about the kids.”
But it’s not really all about the kids.
La Habra police records specialist Kayleigh Capetillo frolicked in the water and slid down the slide in full uniform. A few of her colleagues joined her.
The kids’ enthusiasm and excitement served as motivation to jump in the water, Capetillo said.
“It’s all about community service and the relationship between the police department (and the kids),” Capetillo said. “We want to build good relationships with the kids who are our going to be our next generation.”
Resident Vivana Lopez, who brought her 4 and 8-year old daughters, said she attends nearly all the events hosted by the La Habra Police Department.
Lopez’s daughters even dressed as police officers at last year’s National Night Out.
“I want them to know that cops are not scary,” Lopez said. “I want them to know that cops are there to help you.”
“The La Habra Police Department takes pride in building trust and communication with the community,” Lt. Dan Henderson said. “It all starts with our younger citizens, letting kids see that ‘cops’ are people too. Cool Cops allows kids to have fun and positive contact with the police at an early age, laying the foundation of a strong relationship in the future.”