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West Palm Beach police helping kids beat the heat with 'Operation Chill'

Posted at 8:40 PM, Jul 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-26 20:40:57-04

With heat indexes pushing 110 degrees across South Florida this week, it's too dangerous to spend too much time outside.

So West Palm Beach police officers are out and about this summer, rewarding kids with free Slurpees to encourage them to do good and beat the summer heat.

It's a nationwide program with 7/11 called Operation Chill.

“The heat is awful but we just have to help each other out," said Officer Josh Hall.

We followed Officer Hall as he made his rounds through the city, handing out coupons for free Slurpees to kids.

“It’s been hot, so muggy out here -- it's been raining," said local teen Sequoia Stelle. “It’s very nice of them. It’s pretty cool because we need something like this when it’s hot outside.”

From parks, to playgrounds, basketball courts and even convenience stores, officers look for kids to hand out free coupons to encourage good behavior. If needed, officers also hand out waters to help people in need stay hydrated.

“We're bridging the gap. It's just another reason to interact with these kids in a positive light," said Sgt. Bill Nealy. “It’s just another huge tool in our tool box.”

But for the kids, it's much more than just staying cool.

“These kids are out in these areas -- they’re seeing the gangs, the drugs, the prostitution. So it’s nice to kind of reward them for what they’re going through," said Officer Hall. “Just try to give a different insight, with the juveniles looking at police as a positive figure instead of a negative figure."

Officer Hall said the Slurpees help ease tensions with the community.

“A lot of the kids might not have that positive interaction with the police department so it’s nice just going out and seeing smile," he said. “I see a lot of shootings, a lot of robberies, poverty. With all the things we see, you have to make our job fun."

These juvenile division officers also carry footballs and soccer balls in the trunks of their squad cars so they can play with the youth they encounter in the neighborhoods.

“I’m not scared because I know they’re trying to do their job and keep the community safe," said Stelle. “I feel protected. They care about us."

After seeing Officer Hall outside 7/11, six-year old Myra Beckett got to cool off with some Slurpees.

“I think that our children need to know not all officers are bad," said her grandmother, Chandra Canady.

This isn't Myra's first experience with police. West Palm Beach officers saved her life when she was hit by a car in March.

“She died at the scene. Officer Nicole from WPBPD did CPR and the paramedics came and helped bring her back to life," said Canady.

Myra suffered a broken leg, collapsed lung and head trauma. She has been in rehab for several months now and is recovering well.

On Wednesday, she was able to walk inside 7/11 with Officer Hall to grab her free frozen drink.

“For somebody that I didn’t think would walk, I thank God she’s doing great," said Canady. “Today's a good day. She’s happy now! She got her Slurpee. She’s doing real good."

Operation Chill continues for the next several weeks until the department gives away all of the coupons. This is the third year WPBPD has participated in the program.