Over the past year or so, the news has featured many stories that call into question the relationship between the police and the communities they serve. Protests have resulted in violence, and twitter hashtags have mushroomed. Now, an organization called Coffee with a Cop hopes to change the way that communities interact with their local police force.
The Community Affairs Unit
The Community Affairs Unit started in Hawthorne, California, a town of around 80,000 located in Los Angeles County. The events were originally the brainchild of Chief Robert Fager, who started the Special Operations Bureau and the Community Affairs Unit. These projects were designed to identify and address issues within the community.
The organization was charged with identifying the community's issues, and in the process of brainstorming ideas, someone mentioned cops and coffee. However, there was no working model for implementing such a plan. Undaunted, the Chief and his staff decided to take a chance and design a whole new paradigm for community engagement: thus was born, Coffee With a Cop.
The inaugural Coffee With a Cop event was a smashing success. A huge line full of people who were eager to share their stories and concerns with the community formed. There were many community members present who had never before had an opportunity to speak with a police officer, and the Coffee With a Cop event was an opportunity to break down those barriers.
Too often, the police are viewed as an aggressive force rather than a helpful element in a city, and Coffee With a Cop helped to warm the relationship that many people have with the police.
Coffee With a Cop Spreads Nationwide
Since that first meeting, which was catered by a Hawthorne-area McDonalds, the program has begun to spread like wildfire. All across the nation, police departments have decided to reach out to the community with the hand of friendship and free coffee
In May 2014, the Hillsboro, Oregon police department held their first Coffee With a Cop event. Chief Lee Dobrowolski had experienced the program as a deputy chief in Salt Lake City, Utah. Forest Grove, Oregon also has a Coffee With a Cop program, which they learned about in an online forum hosted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Coffee With a Cop: Becoming Part of the National Fabric
The Coffee With a Cop program has made it all the way to Tennessee, Michigan, Iowa, and New Jersey. The relatively simple idea of sitting down with the community over a hot cup of coffee
has opened police and citizens up to one another in new and profound ways.
Coffee has long been thought to be a medicinal brew, and now its healing properties are being implemented to great effect in municipalities nationwide through the Coffee With a Cop
program. Opening up conversation is just one way to personalize policing and recalls the long-gone days of police who would walk their beat and interact with citizens on a direct and more human level.