The line for the water slide was already forming two hours before the water was turned on. Memories of the day will likely last a lot longer.
Between the big shady trees of Las Lomas Park, La Habra PD held its second annual Cool Cops event Wednesday, July 26, with families enjoying a long summer day in a place that was once overrun with gang activity.
“I grew up in La Habra and I want the kids who live here to have a good time,” said Lt. Mel Ruiz, who organizes the event, which is designed as a community outreach providing waterslides, ice cream, music and good vibrations to low-income families. “I want them to know the police department is here for them and to not be intimidated. This builds trust and it goes a long way.”
Last summer’s event at Montwood Park was a big success for Ruiz and La Habra PD, and this year’s event was able to come together again using established relationships with the city’s community services, local businesses and friends to create a positive experience for about 300 local kids. Ruiz said Police Chief Jerry Price’s enthusiastic support ensures the event will continue.
Rafael Venegas Sr., who has been in the ice cream truck business since 1994, partnered with the city to offset the cost for the ice cream, allowing all of the children in attendance to enjoy free treats.
“We choose to be a part of this because it’s giving back to the community and there’s no better feeling than that,” said Rafael Venegas Jr., whose father owns the ice cream truck. “My dad made sure we were overstocked,” Venegas Jr. said. “We wanted to be sure no child went without.”
Katie Elmore, assistant recreation manager for La Habra Community Services, who manned the water slides, said events like Cool Cops help kids connect the dots on what a community really is.
“It shows them police aren’t the bad guys,” Elmore said. Earlier, she said she overheard a couple of girls talking: “‘Have you seen that girl over there? She’s a detective! That’s really cool!’
“They’re going to go back to school in a couple of weeks and they’re going to be talking about this. This is the highlight of their summer.”