Community forum allows public a chance to meet with local police
By Ariel Carmona, Jr., Record-Bee
Original article HERE
Residents had the opportunity to meet members of the Lakeport Police Department and California Highway Patrol at the “Coffee with a Cop” event Friday at Angelina’s Bakery. The community meeting was designed to foster a sense of trust and community involvement between law enforcement officers and the public and to gather input from residents about their collective concerns.
According to Lakeport Police Chief Brad Rasmussen, the event started in 2011 when the Hawthorne Police Department started the program to promote positive community and law enforcement engagement. The Department secured fuinding from the U.S. Department of Justice for training and community outreach. The event soon spread all over the country and is now held periodically in Lake County.
Officer Joe Medici in charge of neighborhood watch for the department also serves as a liaison with local businesses and handles community outreach.
“It’s about humanizing the badge,” he said, “we want to let the community known we are here and to let them meet local enforcement so they see who we are. It’s a great meet and greet.” Medici said the Lakeport police are pretty busy being proactive with foot patrols through the parks and dealing with traffic related matters and other duties. He said the event allows residents and business owners to voice their concerns which range from requests for extra patrols to having their questions answered regarding setting up security cameras.
Resident Richard Grahn said he attended the event because his perception of police officers has changed over the years.
“I grew up in fear of cops,” he said, adding that he eventually came to realize they are pretty good guys. “Coming to meet the Lakeport Police Department officers, you can see they are real human beings. They are not the bad guys. They just want to meet you to show you they are one of us.”
Grahn said perception plays a big part in the interactions between officers and community members.
“Like everyone else, they have a job to do. Some people sweep streets, others enforce the law,” he said. “They enforce the laws we created, I would hope that more cities would get to know their police officers.”
Sharon Foley has lived in Lake County for 30 years. She said many people have a preconceived notion of law enforcement officers and it was important for her to talk to them and to get to know them.
“You can come to something like this and get to know people. When I lived in L.A. I didn’t know my neighbors. Everyone was too busy working. I think there should be more of these because there are more younger families moving to Lake County because real estate is so expensive in other areas,” said Foley. “There should be more hands on stuff with firemen and the people that serve the community. The community has to work together otherwise the town can never reach its potential.”
Lakeport Police Chaplain Mike Suski agreed, noting the event had a good turnout and a positive effect on all of those involved. Suski said he planned to travel to Spring Valley and visit with Pawnee fire victims later in the day but he said he was excited to beging the day at the morning community event.
“I think its beautiful. The idea of meeting with your neighbors is fantastic,” he said. “The different agencies like the CHP and the police department are working together.”
Suski said the impact on those in attendance was tangible and it changes the way people see the officers.
“The fear is gone, once people see the officers’ faces and they become familiar with their neighborhood police. Even just having coffee shows them that they are just like any other guy,” he said.
Reserve officer Clay Pafford said this was his first time experiencing and participating in the Coffee with a Cop event.
“I think the turnout is really good and it is nice to be able to interact with the public,” he said.
According to Neighborhood Scout, an analytics company which specializes in tracking neighborhood statistics, Lakeport’s crime index is about 9.85 violent crimes per 1,000 residents and 222 property crimes in a population of approximately 4,772. This compares to a national mean of 4 and a state mean of 4.45.