For the Springfield Police Department, building trust starts with community engagement.
Community members and police officers were able to meet one on one Thursday morning during the department’s “Coffee with a Cop” event at Starbucks on Dirksen Parkway.
Neighborhood police officer Taylor Sullivan, who organized the event, hoped the informal atmosphere would allow people to discuss their concerns with the police on a personal level.
She said speaking face to face with community members can help with understanding and believes consistent community interaction will help bridge the gap.
“People love coming out to a relaxed setting and being able to talk with the officers who work in their neighborhoods. With everything that has happened in the past, one of our big goals is to bring everyone together so hopefully events like this show a positive move forward,” Sullivan said.
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“Coffee with a Cop” is a national community-oriented policing program designed to break down communication barriers through one-on-one interaction. Events are held to provide ‘faces’ for officers and help community members connect with officers distraction-free, according to Police Chief magazine.
Michelle Lee, the manager of the north end Starbucks, said she enjoyed getting to know new officers and reuniting with officers she’s seen in her neighborhood. She said she was happy to partner with SPD and the event was a step in the right direction in building community trust.
“Times are different now, and a lot of bad things have happened, so I think anything positive that can be put out to the community is a benefit to the city and to the department,” Lee said. hear our concerns and connect so I think it’s a very good event.”
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Police officers made introductions during the event, and people asked questions while enjoying a free cup of coffee. Neighborhood police Sgt. Matt Doss, Springfield Deputy Chief Andrew Dodd and state Rep. Sandy Hamilton, R-Springfield, were among those who attended the event.
Sullivan said when the pandemic began the department had less opportunity to host community events, but it was excited to host Coffee with a Cop again since COVID restrictions have loosened. She said she plans to organize more events for the department and hopes the community continues to attend.
“I know it’s like why would I want to go to Starbucks and talk with a cop? But I’m here every week, and I want more people to know how to reach out to us in a different sense than calling 911 for an emergency,” Sullivan said. “Here we give our business cards, emails, and tell people how to connect with us so hopefully it gets bigger, and people utilize social media to see when these events are happening.”
Coffee with a Cop is typically held from 7 to 10 am and event locations vary. Future Springfield Police Department community engagement event announcements can be found on the department’s website and Facebook page.