Cone With a Cop: Dialogue and a Dip

The Bloomington Police Department will host its first Ice Cream With a Cop event Thursday from 4-6 p.m. at Carl's Ice Cream (601 West Locust, Bloomington)

Officers from BPD will meet, talk, and eat ice cream with adults and children in an effort to field residents' questions, concerns, and views and get to know their neighbors. The event is a follow-up to spring's inaugural Coffee With a Cop get-together at Normal's Dunkin' Donuts.

Carl's Ice Cream will provide free small cones to kids 12 and under during the event.

Local Musician, Food Truck Open for Los Lonely Boys

                                                Marcos Mendez

                                                Marcos Mendez

Twin Citians will be offered a taste of local Latin food and music at Thursday's Los Lonely Boys concert at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.

Not In Our Town: Bloomington/Normal's Marcos Mendez, who also chairs the community advocacy group Conexiones Latinas, will open at 6:30 p.m. for the Texas band, which won a 2005 Grammy as best Pop Vocal Duo/Group. Mendez plans to perform blues, roots, rock, and some Mariachi tunes "mixed in for good measure."

Oogies Food on Wheels, a mobile restaurant, will serve Mexican-inspired foods from 5 to 7 p.m. outside the center. The food truck was launched last year by Kerry and Felipe Urquizo, with help from their three children, Oskar, Olivia, and Gus. Kerry works at Heartland Community College and Felipe is a cook at a local restaurant.

Not Loving It? Have "Coffee With a Cop"

In an ongoing effort to build a constructive dialogue with the community, McLean County police departments will share java and jawbone with residents March 13.

Representatives from Bloomington, Normal, and Illinois State University police departments and the McLean County Sheriff's Department will participate in Coffee with a Cop -- an extension of a national program -- from 7 to 10 a.m. that Friday at McDonald's, 525 Brock Drive, Bloomington.

McDonald's will provide free coffee to all who attend.

Coffee with a Cop was started by a California police department in 2011 as part of its community policing effort, and today, some 175 communities in 36 states offer Coffee with a Cop programs. Sara Mayer, public affairs officer with the Bloomington police, maintains the relaxed sitdown can improve community relations.

"You don't call 911 when everything is going well," Mayer notes. "This allows a one-on-one, builds partnerships and trust."

ISU police have met with students in a similar fashion for a couple of years, a few times each semester. "It's a good opportunity to see us in more of an approachable venue ... in this case, a relaxed environment," Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said.

"Arlene": On Race and Retail

Call me "Arlene." I am a white woman with a son who is mixed race/black. He is a teenager at BHS - a good kid, thoughtful and smart.

One day, not long after the Trayvon Martin shooting, I took him to help me pick up some items from a business in Bloomington. I went inside to talk to the manager while my son parked the car. I was having a happy pleasant conversation with the manager, Michelle.  My son walked into the business, dressed in the usual high school hoodie, and walked up to us. 

Michelle immediately stiffened and said loudly, "What do you want?" 

There was a moment of silence, as my son and I looked at each other.

"Michelle," I said, "please meet my son. He is here to help me."

She recovered quickly and shook his hand. 

That moment will linger forever in my heart as I saw my beautiful, loving son judged by the color of his skin and the clothing he wore that day. It was not the first time, and it will not be the last.  He knows that, and so do I.  But for me as a mom, it was one of the most painful experiences, knowing that I can no longer protect him from the realities of our society.