Coffee With a Cop
We all know the cliches about cops and their coffee. Thanks to a new program called Coffee with a Cop, some police departments are putting coffee to good use, using it to build relationships in their communities. The timing couldn't be better, since the last year has been decidedly mixed when it comes to relations between police and the civilians they protect and serve. Events in Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, NY, and a handful of other municipalities have become flash points for the tensions between townspeople and local law enforcement. Civilians are wary of what some perceive as police overreach and heavy-handed policing tactics, while police often feel that civilians don't understand the unique stresses of police work.
Against this backdrop, some police departments are trying a new approach, supplementing or replacing the "broken windows" model of policing that's characterized the last couple of decades of police work with a back-to-basics approach that emphasizes community oriented policing, where law enforcement actively engages with the communities it serves, becoming a visible, proactive and engaged presence.
The Coffee with a Cop initiative, supported by the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, is a natural outgrowth of this old approach made new. Coffee with a Cop started as a small idea spearheaded by the city of Hawthorne, California. It's proven to be very popular, spreading to 175 cities and towns in 36 states. In the process, both sides have benefited. The events are informal and relaxed, allowing police and civilians to meet in a neutral and friendly atmosphere that encourages the airing of community issues and the building of partnerships. The conversations that result, it's hoped, will allow each side to see, and approach, the other as individuals and build trust.
As Lieutenant Wingate Whitley put it to the Tifton Gazette ahead of a Coffee with a Cop event in Tifton, Georgia, "We hope that community members will feel comfortable to ask questions, bring concerns or simply get to know our deputies. These interactions are the foundation of community partnerships." A little farther north, West Asheville, NC resident Mandy chase told the Mountain Xpress that it was "nice to be able to recognize the officers," remarking that she'd encourage more people to come, whether to discuss local issues as she did, or just to compare notes on favorite movies, as her husband had done with another officer.
Coffee with a Cop is a young program, but its impact is already being felt from coast to coast. Several police departments have been happy enough with the results to make the events an ongoing thing, and the communities in which they serve have likewise responded positively. As the program becomes more widespread, it's possible that future encounters between police and civilians will be safer, more productive, and less fraught than they've been in recent times. All in all, that's not bad for a morning shared over coffee. Want to buy your favorite cop a coffee? May we suggest a bag of our Madison Ave Medium Roast?