HPOU-backed project: Wheelchair Rugby a ‘smashing’ success at UH

Mike Ybanez

The Union’s effort to demonstrate that police officers are good folks who are also human took a giant step on Oct.13 when a group of HPD officers served free snow cones to 3-year-old kids, a high school football team and even senior adults in a low-income apartment area on the east side.

Event coordinator Tim Whitaker, an HPOU board member, called the snow cone giveaway and resultant fellowship “an overwhelming success and lots of fun for the officers who participated.”

Whitaker said, “We had three apartment complexes planned that day. But we were only able to do two of them. We will plan to do the other at a later date. It was so overwhelming that we didn’t have a chance to leave.

“We spent four hours at the same location. We served little stay-at-home and elementary-aged kids, on up to those in junior high and high school as they were getting off the bus. We even served the Metro bus drivers.”

Unexpectedly, the Whitaker-led group noticed that the Sterling High School football team was on a nearby practice field. Initially the players were concerned about the strong presence of the sea of Houston blue. But when they learned what was happening each player gladly accepted a snow cone – a great energizer for the pending practice.

Whitaker said each player was polite and “yes-sir, no-sir” respectful enough to prompt HPOU President Ray Hunt to call the coach to brag on his players and tell him what a great team he has.

“We had a very impressive clientele,” Whitaker said. “We served two- and three-year-olds and 70 year-olds. We achieved even more than our expectations. It showed us a little bit about what that community is about and showed them a little bit about what police officers are all about.”

Whitaker hatched the idea after he was inspired by a sermon by Second Baptist pastor Ed Young. It entailed positive fellowship between Houston police officers and predominately African American communities in an effort to demonstrate that officers are not in the community solely to arrest the bad guys but to interact with the good guys.

The idea included engaging a snow cone vendor, Sylvia Lopez, to go along with the officers to low-income areas. “She had just as good a time as the police officers did,” Whitaker said. “She gave us a ‘good guy’ discount.”

In addition to the regular “snow cone officers,” Southeast Patrol officers also were present. “They were sent out there for security,” Whitaker explained. “But these officers participated. They did a great job. They assisted the kids in crossing the street and were giving away snow cones like the rest of us. I was very, very impressed with the officers out there at Southeast.

“The whole program was absolutely awesome. Maybe snow cones will give us a better chance with these young people than the criminal element gets.”

Police Chief Charles “Chuck” McClelland has authorized marked units to make appearances at the specified times and locations set up by Whitaker and other coordinators.