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St. Louis Cops Try Out A New Policing Tool: Free Ice Cream

Operation Polar Cops aims to cool things down

Photo by Twitter user @aadlisenby

Amid escalating tensions between police and urban communities around the country, police in St. Louis are trying a new way to cool things down: give out free ice cream.

With an adorable catch phrase—”To protect and serve ice cream”—and a precious blue ice cream truck, the St. Louis PD is driving around the city this summer, mending bridges.

"This is the way we help ease those tensions, ease those concerns," St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson told KTVI. "Be in the neighborhoods, making friendships, talking to people, leaving a lasting impression."

Dotson is the chief who publicly distanced himself from the 2014 unrest in Ferguson, following the police shooting of Michael Brown. He declined to send his own officers to assist with the riots, saying, "My gut told me what I was seeing were not tactics that I would use in the city and I would never put officers in situations that I would not do myself."

The St. Louis ice cream truck, clocking in with a price tag of $16,000, was paid for with private donations and gifted to the department last month. It was stocked with 6,000 ice cream treats, provided by a local dairy and supermarket.

The St. Louis approach is indicative of a progressive mini-trend in certain municipalities, following a spate of racially tinged police-civilian violence (Baton Rouge, Falcon Ridge, Dallas, etc.) Instead of clashing with citizens and going on the defense, some police departments are extending olive branches. In Wichita, for instance, police collaborated with Black Lives Matter activists to throw a wildly successful cookout earlier this summer.

Ice cream specifically keeps popping up in community policing tactics around the country. Police in Halifax, Va. recently made a semi-viral video, with white officers handing out ice cream to black motorists on traffic stops. And Operation Hoodsie Cup—named for a New England dairy treat—has been operating in Boston for years (and was the inspiration for the St. Louis initiative).

Ice cream is certainly no cure-all, but when police tensions have gotten so ugly in recent weeks, it’s nice to have a sweet scoop like this one.

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