‘Coffee with a cop’ building trust between police and communities

By Elise Baker, 9news.com.au
Original article HERE

It’s a small gesture – the offer of a free coffee and friendly conversation – but it’s having a big impact on the relationship between police and the public they serve.

“Coffee with a Cop”, an initiative born in the US, is breaking down barriers and building trust between the community and police in suburbs across Sydney and Australia.

Police invite locals along for caffeine and conversation at a local café or restaurant, and from there, the aim is to discuss any issues, no matter how big or small, and learn more about each other.

“We’re just here to have a chat about anything,” Fairfield Commander Superintendent Peter Lennon told 9NEWS.

Supt Lennon was pivotal in bringing the event to Australia.

“We can talk about Brazilian football, on previous occasions we’ve spoken about teenage daughters that don’t clean their bedrooms. Whatever people want to talk about or have a chat about.”

A number of NSW Police Local Area Commands host the event, and due to its popularity, Fairfield holds it once a month.

Community leaders say it’s really improved the relationship between the police and those in the multiculturally diverse area.

“Especially people from the Middle East, they never had these opportunities. There’s no such program and the police are very scary there,” local Assyrian community leader and regular attendee David David said.

“Finding the police so friendly, so nice, so helpful, this is actually beautiful. And it’s a new experience for people from the Middle East.”

The program first started six years ago in California, where officers were looking for a way to break down barriers between the community and police.

It has proven so successful that it’s since spread throughout the US, to Canada, Europe, Africa and Australia.

In Fairfield, a wide variety of officers are usually in attendance, including detectives, highway patrol and domestic violence officers. And police find it allows them to take action on what can sometimes be perceived as small problems before things go seriously wrong.

“The number of times police speak to people it’s always very official,” Supt Lennon said.

“Today it’s unofficial for them to see the police are just like them.”