Police department hosts their first Coffee with a Cop event hoping to make connections with the community they serve.
Nothing breaks down barriers like a hot cup o’ joe. This is the theory behind Coffee with a Cop, a national effort to bring police officers and their communities around the same table to discuss issues and learn more about each other.
According to coffeewithacop.com, the nonprofit organization that began the community outreach events has a simple mission: to break down the barriers between police officers and the citizens they serve.
Often, the only opportunity local police have to engage with members of their community is through the window of a car they just pulled over. This type of interaction doesn’t do much to foster trust or meaningful connections between public servants and citizens.
Early on Saturday, March 2, the Cinnaminson Police Department came to Sweetwater Bar and Grill for its morning coffee and the first Coffee with a Cop event for the township.
Recently appointed Police Chief Richard Calabrese says the event offered residents a unique chance to have their voices heard and questions answered by their local police.
He believes there are people in the community with unanswered questions who may not feel comfortable going through the trouble of calling the department’s non-emergency number for something they feel is a minor concern.
According to the new chief, that is precisely what the morning’s event was all about.
“Coffee with a Cop is to get the public together in a non-enforcement environment to talk to us on a one-on-one level without being distracted, we’re not getting a call for service. These officers here today are dedicated to sit down, talk and spend time for even the smallest concerns,” said Calabrese.
In addition to a spread of breakfast foods and coffee, games were set up for younger residents in attendance, including a giant version of Connect Four. According to Mayor Ernest McGill, positive interactions with the police are just as important for local youths as they are for their parents.
“Especially with the kids here, it’s good to feel like you don’t have to be afraid of the cops,” said McGill. “If we can get the children to feel that the cops aren’t bad people, that they’re human, fathers and mothers, they see they’re humans just like us.”
This was certainly apparent with K-9 Officer Mike Curran, who brought his son, Logan, and daughter, Evelyn, to the event.
“It’s good just to socialize with people from the community and build that bond,” said Curran.
As a K-9 officer, Curran fielded a lot of questions about working with a dog. He was glad for the opportunity to get to know more of the people of his small town and form stronger connections. He believes the more trust people have in him and their local department, the easier it is for them to do their jobs.
“Most people that come to Cinnaminson have some sort of tie, whether it’s family or they were born and raised here. I just think that building that stronger bond with the community helps,” said Curran.
Through events like Coffee with a Cop, Calabrese wants to relay a message from his department to the citizens of Cinnaminson.
“Get more involved with our police. We want to be transparent,” said Calabrese. “We want to know you and we want you to know us. That’s the big thing, we want you to feel safe. You should know who’s protecting your community.”