Coffee with a Cop forging relationships

By Kristina Tedeschi Wayne, Norwich Bulletin
Original article HERE

A revived community outreach initiative is bringing local residents and town and state police officers together in efforts to forge closer relationships between community members and law enforcement.

The initiative, called “Coffee with a Cop,” gives those living and working in town a chance to sit down with police officers over a cup of coffee, bring up any questions, concerns or issues, and simply get to know one another, said Resident Trooper Sgt. Michael Rondinone, who revived the initiative in Colchester two months ago.

“Coffee with a Cop has been going on for quite some time now throughout Connecticut and the nation,” he said. “I live in town, and I thought it’d be a great idea to get to know the community members better and let them know we’re just like they are, and that they can be approachable with us.”

As an 18-year veteran of the state police and a two-year resident of Colchester, Rondinone said he takes pride in living and working in the same town.

“It makes it that much more meaningful that people know my name and know my officers’ names,” he added. “I like to be able to put a name to a face and know who people are in the community.”

So far, Coffee with a Cop has been held at Tim’s Bistro on Main Street last month and at Red Rose Desserts on Lebanon Avenue last week, where residents, selectmen, local firefighters, and First Selectman Art Shilosky discussed topics ranging from speeding enforcement to the town’s annual prescription drug take-back program to the summer presence of bicycle patrol officers, Rondinone said.

Between two and three officers attend the coffee dates, which are hosted by Rondinone at a different location each month. As the program gets started, the dates will be held at local small businesses first in efforts to support them, he said.

Coffee with a Cop first started in Hawthorne, Calif. In 2011 after officers there were looking for a way to positively interact with more of the citizens they served, according to the nonprofit corporation’s website, eventually coming up with the idea of getting together over a cup of coffee. Today, Coffee with a Cop events are held in every state in the U.S., as well as in Canada, Europe, Africa, Australia and Latin America

“With all the negativity surrounding police today,” Rondinone said, “I just thought it was something positive.”

The events can also open doors toward crime prevention, he added. For example, if residents know a police officer personally, they may be more likely to contact them with a tip that could help solve a crime, he said.

Shilosky said he welcomes the chance for community members and law enforcement officers to get better acquainted.

“It allows the officers and the residents to have a relationship,” he said, “and create an atmosphere of good.”