Police departments taking time to meet with members of their community in relaxed settings is nothing new, but an organized effort to make an event like that happen across the country on the same day is, relatively speaking.
The national coffee with a cop (CWAC) day started as part of the National Community Policing Week back in 2016. Since then it has been held on the first Wednesday of October making this year the third annual event.
Across the country, law enforcement collaborated with small businesses and major franchises to provide space for the events which were held throughout the day.
In Gahanna, OH the police department held two events on Wednesday; one in the morning and one in the evening.
Ultimately the meet and greets are an opportunity for the public to interact with officers in a way they normally wouldn’t.
“The majority of police interactions are during some sort of enforcement or when there is a crisis,” said Rick Butsko, the Police Chief for Grove City, OH.
Back in Gahanna, Police Chief Jeff Spence says much of the day is about listening.
“It’s a learning opportunity for us, sometimes we get some great feedback from our residents sometimes they provide us ideas on how to better serve and how to make sure that their voices are heard.”
Being heard would be nice, according to some who feel there is a divide in this country between some police departments and the communities they serve.
Geoff Bowman is a black man and happened to be visiting the Starbucks the Gahanna event was being held at.
Bowman says events like this are important.
“There’s a lot of apprehension just because you don’t know what to expect,” said Bowman.
He has two children, one of which is a young man in middle school, and as a parent, naturally, he worries.
“You see some of the things that have transpired in society,” said Bowman. “If you can take that and come to some sort of common ground; get on the same page; and again, you know, just figure out what one another has on their mind and figure out some way to bridge this gap; that’s what has to happen in society.”
Bowman says it all comes down to respect, and that sentiment is echoed by police.
According to Chief Butsko, “The importance for police to not personalize people’s hard times is at an all-time high in our city and in our country.”
So it is over a cup of coffee police hope to make a connection.
Grove City has been holding CWAC events on a quarterly basis for years, thanks to Richard and Henra Hutchings.
Their appreciation for the friendliness of Grove City officers prompted them to want to buy them breakfast.
That single event snowballed into what the department does today, which Chief Butsko says attempts to reach all parts of their community by actively looking for opportunities to hold their CWAC events in lower income parts of town.
According to Butsko, the correlation between socio-economic status and crime is well documented, and because the interactions people have with police during a crisis or enforcement action can be so negative, it is important to get into those neighborhoods to show the police does respect and care about them as individuals.
“When people see that the police officers who they assumed were going to take a specific posture towards them; when we don’t and we value them as a person as much as we value anyone else; that’s a real good thing,” said Butsko.