Police, kids, books and ice cream

Published 10:24 pm Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Suffolk Police Department is collaborating with Parks and Recreation and Suffolk Public Libraries to host a unique reading program.

Books and Badges, a program in which police officers read to children in the community, began for the first time this week.

“We wanted to do a form of community outreach to thank the community for their support,” said Master Police Officer Paul Hutta.

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Beginning on Tuesday, the Library 2 Go van — which is chockfull of books and media technology available to children — and a number of police officers visited the East Suffolk Recreation Center. The next two days, they visited Burbage Grant Park and the Hoffler Apartments.

The hour-long events would start with the officers reading to the children and conclude with ice cream, donated by Jumpn’ G’s Ice Cream.

“There is nothing better than sitting, telling stories and having ice cream,” Hutta said.

Both the children and parents in attendance felt such programs strengthen relationships between the force and the community.

“It builds confidence in our public service workers,” said Stephanie Wilcox, one of the mothers in attendance.

“I feel safer,” said Blake Gawryluk, 10, whose father is an officer.

Programs like Books and Badges come at an opportune time, in the midst of strained police and community relations around the nation.

Police in Suffolk have been engaged in the community to maintain good relationships. Community walks and other activities have been hosted by the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority and on National Night Out.

The community has responded by showing its gratitude in a variety of ways. Several restaurants have offered free meals to the city’s officers and firefighters. In addition, families have given drinks, baked goods, pizza and cards to local police officers.