Boston cops want to build trust with their community. Their first step? Ice cream.

Operation Hoodsie Cup is about way more than ice cream.

The Boston Police Department does a thing every year called "Operation Hoodsie Cup." And it's pretty darn cute.

‌Photo courtesy of Boston Police Department.‌

Officers roll around the city in an ice cream truck, dishing out free treats during the dog days of summer.  

It's a sly move that officers in Virginia are pulling off too.


‌Photo courtesy of Boston Police Department.‌

For obvious reasons, Operation Hoodsie Cup is a hit.

Just look at the smile on this kid's face!

Photo courtesy of Boston Police Department.

This year the even is especially neat because the BPD has glammed out its brand-new ride.

I would only be a little bit upset if this vehicle pulled me over.

‌Photo courtesy of Boston Police Department.‌

Seriously though — the BPD does not mess around when it comes to ice cream.

Photo courtesy of Boston Police Department.

The point of Operation Hoodsie Cup, however, isn't really about the ice cream (although, it sure acts as the perfect icebreaker, amiright?).

Photo courtesy of Boston Police Department.

It's about building bridges between Boston's people in uniform and the community they serve.

“It’s about way more than ice cream," one BPD officer said in a statement. "It’s about relationships and keeping kids safe. We want kids to like and look up to us."

Photo courtesy of Boston Police Department.

"I absolutely love the new truck and everything this program represents," Police Commissioner William B. Evans said.

Photo courtesy of Boston Police Department.

"The good will it generates between my officers and our city’s young people is undeniable and nothing short of remarkable," Evans said. "My only regret is that I wish we had started doing this 30 years ago.”

Boston's not alone. In recent months, police departments across the country have upped efforts to connect with the communities they're sworn to protect.

Take the police in Wichita, Kansas, for example. After Black Lives Matter supporters protested peacefully, officers threw a cookout to start a two-way conversation in order to improve cop-community relations.

By any definition, the event was a success.

"This isn't something we're going to change overnight or tonight," Wichita police chief Gordon Ramsay (not to be confused with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay) told Channel 12 News. "It's just going to take continual effort on everybody's part. And work on policy changes, relationships. And that's what's going to get to the heart of the issues."

The police chief is right: They've got a long road ahead.

Let's be real — free ice cream and a cookout won't solve the dire issue of systemic racism in law enforcement or the distrust people in the community feel toward cops.

These events, however, are great first steps taken by those in a position of power — the police departments — to build trust and communication between officers and the people they serve; trust that, in far too many communities around the country, has been broken.

Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images.

In America, black teens are far more likely to be killed by cops than their white counterparts (even after adjusting for the likelihood that a black or white teen would commit a crime). If you're black, there's a greater chance you'll be arrested too. And charges related to possession of marijuana demonstrate that: Even though there's no hard evidence proving black Americans smoke weed more regularly, they definitely get arrested for it more frequently.

A lot needs to happen to ensure people of color are viewed equally in the eyes of the law.

As Margaret Mead once put it, however, we should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world," because "it is the only thing that ever has.”

And, as I say, all the better if that small group of thoughtful citizens comes armed with ice cream and a bit of empathy.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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