Hash browns and handcuffs

By Stephen Montoya, RR Observer
Original article HERE

Customers at a local restaurant got more than a cup a coffee with their breakfast last Wednesday when a group of police officers entered the dining room.

They weren’t responding to a call, they were there to meet and greet the public they serve.

Along with orders of huevos rancheros, omelets and toast, International House of Pancakes customers got to spend some one-on-one time with a group of Rio Rancho Police officers from all ranks and departments.

RRPD’s Coffee with a Cop featured their answers to questions residents may have about their safety and the handling of recent incidents.

RRPD Capt. Ron Vigil said this type of event allows officers to sit down with the community and talk about issues in a relaxed setting.

“We find that just the education aspect for some in this brief interaction is beneficial not only for the people who come out, but for us officers,” Vigil said.

Vigil said most officers understand that many people associate them with a reprimand or hit their brakes when they see a black-and-white — sometimes all black — squad car in their rearview mirrors.

“It’s very important, not only from a citizens’ prospective, but for me to know that my kids, my friends, my family are able to interact with other officers that I know are here to do their best for the community,” Vigil said.

Rio Rancho resident and small business owner Nikkie Carothers said she came to the event to ask questions and get to know the officers better.

“I wanted to meet with them and learn what their goals are with the community and see how I can help out,” Carothers said. “Sometimes people just have random questions about laws or certain situations, and I appreciate that they are taking the time to talk with us, ‘The People,’ about them.”

Newly appointed RRPD Chief Stewart Steele said the benefit of hosting this event is tremendous for him, because he can engage with the public he has sworn to protect.

“Being new to the area, it gives me the opportunity to just get out and mingle with folks,” Steele said. “Anytime that you are out and able to discuss issues and have a good conversation, it broadens your perspective of the area you serve in.”

Steele said this type of event brings with it an educational aspect that officers can take with them into the field.

“Just when you think you got a handle on everything, there’s another wrinkle that comes into the scenario,” Steele said. “I like hearing the issues the community has and I like the challenge of trying to fix what I can.”