Consecutive cold weekends in January may have been keeping many in Muncie craving the warmth of their homes, but when the local police department threw the community a challenge on a short notice, enticing them with hot chocolate, people showed up.

The Muncie Police Department’s (MPD) night shift officers challenged the local community to a friendly pop up snowball fight, through a Facebook post, at Canan Commons in downtown Muncie.

“It’s just pretty spontaneous,” said MPD Patrolman Chase Winkle. “We did this with about two hours of planning.”

Winkle, who handles community relations for MPD, said the police department has been thinking of organizing an event snow and cold weather related and thought the area would be a good spot for challenging kids to a snowball fight.

“We’re not doing anything job related right now. It’s just cutting loose. The officers are acting like kids as much as the kids are acting like kids,” Winkle said. “It just makes it fun.”

Recently, MPD also posted a snow sledding video on its Facebook page with members of the community, after seeing other police departments do the same, Winkle said.

“I think [these events] are very important. It shows that we are normal people as well,” said Chief Deputy Jeff Stanley, from the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office. “To mix with the community and to interact with the kids in the community, it shows that we like to have fun just like they do as well.”

Also present at the event were officers from the Ball State University Police (UPD).

“I think it’s important just to integrate the university and college into actual Muncie,” said Matthew Whiles, a patrolman from UPD. “It can get kind of divided between the university and the city and I think this kind of helps bridge that gap a little bit.”

Bob Williams, general manager of a local restaurant, participated in the snowball fight and hit MPD patrolman Maverick Rastakhiz with packed snow. 

“It just seemed like fun,” Williams said. “[It] seemed like a nice community event, interacting with our local law enforcement.”

“It gets everybody together,” Rastakhiz said. “Brings some humanism into the whole thing.”

Maggie Dely, a behavioral clinician at Meridian Health Services agreed with Williams and said, “I think it’s good community engagement, to build the rapport with kids and the Muncie Police Department and law enforcement in general.”

Families of law enforcement members also joined in on the snowy challenge.

Amanda Clevenger, a Ball State dining services employee whose husband works as a police officer in Parker City, brought her kids to the event.

“Kids cannot be afraid of cops,” Clevenger said. “In today’s world, a lot of kids are afraid of cops. And it’s important for the kids to interact with the cops in the community.”

“I can’t wait for next year to do this again,” Whiles said. “I think this is an awesome idea.”

Contact Rohith Rao with comments at rprao@bsu.edu or on Twitter @RaoReports.