Coffee with a cop:SUPD closing the gap
By Aisiriuwa Egharevba, The Southern Digest
Original article HERE
“Why would I argue over the last word? That would build that whole situation up when it’s something trivial and then it’s going to turn into somebody going to jail. I have the last act,” said former Baton Rouge Police Chief, Jeff Leduff, during an open forum between police officers and students early Friday morning on the front lawn of the Southern University Police Department.
October 7th has been deemed National Coffee with a Cop Day across the country and the SUPD did not miss out on the opportunity to interact with students during a trying time.
This year was the first annual Coffee with a Cop day and it stemmed from growing tension between American citizens and the nation’s law enforcement. Since the effort was first launched in 2011 in California by the Hawthorne Police Department, it has touched all 50 states and beyond.
Canada, Europe, Australia and Africa have joined in this year, according to the Coffee with a Cop website.
No question was left unanswered as students voiced their concern for the Alton Sterling case and matters of police brutality, the right to bear arms and whether or not they feel safe on campus. “When it comes down to safety, I would want to know every officer that is here,” said SUPD Chief Jocelyn Johnson.
Chief Johnson has been serving as the Chief of Police at the SUPD since January 2013 and has been on a quest to connect her team with the student body. “I feel safe on campus. I feel more safe on campus than I do out in the real world,” said Raven Gooden, a Senior majoring in Business Management. Several of her peers nodded their heads in agreement and the officers that sat beside them wore her comment like a badge of honor.
According to the Washington Post database, 736 people have been victims of fatal force by the hands of a United States police department since January 1, 2016. This is the reality that the supporters of Coffee with a Cop are working to dispel.
During the meeting, local officers displayed their transparency and bounced ideas off of one another about how they could create a more positive bond with the communities they served.
Officer Devin Walker suggested more spontaneous visits with students during their down time, like what she had experienced with the freshman class in their community meetings recently. She also stressed the fact that she, as well as several other officers who serve the Southern University, community look like the student body. “We are not just on one side. We’re on both sides of it. It was not official. We just chose to [visit the freshmen] one night and then we continued to go a couple other times”.
The SUPD is currently planning new efforts to get students engaged, familiar, and comfortable with their police officers. “… A lot of times students will sit back and watch, waiting to see who [is] going to say something. They want to communicate. They want to engage. But they don’t because of what their peers [are] going to say,” said Chief Johnson.