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Letter: Columbia PD’s Ice Cream Truck “Brilliant” Idea

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INVESTMENT WILL PAY DIVIDENDS

Dear Editor,

I glanced over your recent articles about the Columbia (S.C.) Metro Police ice cream truck and would like to encourage you and your readers to consider a few alternative perspectives.

I will concede that government purchasing a truck to deliver free ice cream to children may not seem fiscally sound or governmentally prudent.  Police departments exist to protect society from violence, not to fill the bellies of kiddos with sugary treats.

But that’s like looking at a mango as green and tough and not considering the gorgeous fruit inside.  There is fruit to be found on this ice cream tree … or truck, rather.

From a community policing perspective, this expenditure is brilliant.  Kudos to CPD and whoever (I am betting dollars to doughnut it’s a girl) decided this was a good idea.  As the wife of a law enforcement officer, I can speak firsthand as to the importance of our police departments forming relationships within the communities and neighborhoods where they protect and serve.

The children who will be served “free ice cream” by this program will become the adults that these police officers interact with ten, twenty and thirty years from now.  Developing a relationship with these kids now will hopefully pay dividends later.

Lower income neighborhoods have higher rates of violence, poverty, and property crimes – that’s a fact.  If police officers enjoy a relationship with the community, they are able to better investigate and solve crimes.  Potential witnesses and sources are far more likely to share information with someone they “know.”

But the main reason I am writing is actually something most would not consider.  This ice cream truck mitigates trauma.

Wait, what?

Yes.  The pieces may be hard to gather and put together but stay with me a moment.

Children in lower income neighborhoods are far more likely to be trauma victims stemming from child abuse, neglect, abject poverty, interpersonal violence, domestic violence, drug exposure … the list goes on.  These adverse childhood experiences (or “Aces”) cause the child’s brain to develop differently than those brains not exposed to such situations.

There’s a huge research study on all of this called the the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study and you can read more about it here or you can listen to Dr. Nadine Burke Harris talk about it here.

I encourage you to do so, it’s baffling to me why we are not recognizing trauma as the epidemic it is.  The study correlated everything from heart disease to suicide as connected to what happens to us as children).

So what trumps Aces?  How do we deal with the fallout from childhood trauma?  The answer: Resilience.  And what builds resilience?  It’s very simple … a positive relationship with a caring adult.

Will little Johnny form a lasting healthy relationship with the ice cream truck driver the first time he gets his torpedo popsicle?  Probably not.  But if little Johnny continually comes to that CPD ice cream truck weekly, or monthly, or even sporadically and little Johnny forms a relationship with the ice cream truck driver – it could potentially neutralize some of the trauma he is experiencing.  And when Johnny grows up and eats an ice cream cone as an adult he may recall that person that so many moons ago came into his neighborhood and gave him a treat.  He may also remember how that driver asked about his day, or commented on his tennis shoes, or said how much he had grown.

Think about it.  Remember that teacher that asked about your day, or the coach who drove you home after practice, the grandmother who doted on your relentlessly, the neighbor who smiled every time you waved, the older sibling that called just to check in after they moved out?  We all have examples of loving relationships, we just don’t understand what an impact they had on our own development.

I, by no means am saying that the ice cream truck is going to be the end all, be all, trauma saving present from the heavens.  What I am saying is there is a lot more at work here than just a police department throwing money away.  There is a tremendous amount of intrinsic value.  From community policing to trauma mitigation, I say “good on you” Columbia Police Department.

Take a step back and see the larger picture.  I’m also guessing that the truck was paid for by granted funds.  From my vantage point though, it doesn’t matter.  The ice cream truck was a terrific idea!

Sincerely,

Christina Wilson
Executive Director, Child Abuse Prevention Association
Beaufort, SC

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SIC SEZ …

Christina: First of all, thank you for the unsung work you do every day on behalf of South Carolina’s most vulnerable children.  You are changing lives for the better in this state, and are to be commended for that.  Also, thank you for sharing this incredibly insightful perspective with us.  You are correct: It’s very easy to be reflexively “against” something, but you’ve done a wonderful job explaining how this particular expenditure could conceivably wind up improving public safety in the Palmetto State’s capital city.  I’m not sure I’m ready to change my mind just yet regarding the appropriateness/ efficacy of this expense – which no one has seen a budget for – but you’ve definitely given me (and my readers) something to think about.  Thank you.  And please continue to share your thoughts on what we write in the future!  Your views are always welcome and appreciated.  

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