Coffee with a Cop expands in Hattiesburg
By Amelia Strahan, Hattiesburg American
Original article HERE
Coffee with a Cop has experienced an increase in attendees since the community outreach program was mobilized, and it reached one of its largest audiences Tuesday at the Depot Coffeehouse & Bistro in downtown Hattiesburg.
Many regulars at the Depot were not expecting to stand in line with members of the Hattiesburg Police Department and the city’s mayor when ordering their daily dark roast to-go.
On the second Tuesday of every month, members of the city’s police department travel to a different coffee shop to interact with Hattiesburg residents with the goal of strengthening community relationships with police officers.
Coffee with a Cop aims to provide a relaxed atmosphere in which residents can voice their concerns to Hattiesburg Police Department, as opposed to a formal question-and-answer scenario.
The program started in 2015 at Java Werks Coffee and Tea, but this year the event has been on the move, traveling to a different coffee shop each month.
Mobilizing the program has allowed it to reach a larger number of residents.
“It is very important for police to make the citizens feel comfortable, and I want to make sure my officers are cordial to you and will assist you in any way possible,” Police Chief Anthony Parker said. “Our motto is service.”
Stephen Moore from Congressman Steven Palazzo’s office also attended Tuesday’s event. Palazzo was in Washington but passed along his appreciation for law enforcement.
“This is one of several events that shows how grateful South Mississippi is for their hard work,” Palazzo said. “These men and women do an outstanding job protecting our communities, and I will continue to give them my utmost support.”
Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker was enthusiastic about the program and what it has to offer the Hattiesburg community.
“We have always had very strong relationships between our police force and our neighborhoods, but we can always do more,” Barker said. “It is about getting past the badge and get down to know these officers and them to know their community on a more personal level.”
A popular study spot, officers could be seen talking to students and allowing them to ask questions regarding the police department.
“It is easy to get to know local law enforcement and appreciate all they do for your city over breakfast and coffee,” junior broadcast journalism major Brooke Bullock said. “It makes me feel safer to associate a face with the badge.”