Leland police host first ‘Coffee with a Cop’
By Renee Spencer, The Times News
Original article HERE
Leland Police Chief Mike James wants his officers to do more than crime control and traffic stops.
“It’s not just about stopping the break-ins and things like that,” he said. “It’s about getting to know the people we serve.”
That’s why James was excited to bring “Coffee with a Cop” to Leland. Launched in Hawthorne, Calif., in 2011, the Coffee with a Cop program provides a tool for officers to connect with the community. Since the Hawthorne Police Department hosted the first event in 2011, Coffee with a Cop has spread to all 50 states and recently expanded to Europe and Australia.
James had wanted to host the program for a few years, but he hadn’t had time to put it together. He credited deputy chief Brad Shirley for helping get the event off the ground. Shirley, who formerly served as the police chief in Boiling Spring Lakes, had launched the program there. While it took several weeks to organize, the Leland police hosted its first event Tuesday morning at Blossoms Restaurant in Magnolia Greens.
James said he selected the location because it was locally owned and operated.
“I’ve eaten breakfast here several times, and they’re nice folks,” he said.
While James noted the restaurant is always busy, many of those who dropped by Tuesday morning came because of the event.
Carol Mahar, who lives in Magnolia Greens, wanted to get a better idea of the size of the town’s police department and find out what issues the community faced. Mahar said she was pleased by what she learned, and she thought the Coffee with a Cop program was a great way to connect with citizens.
“I think it’s a good idea because it gives the general public an opportunity to share their concerns and just get to know the law enforcement officers,” Mahar said.
While a few residents wanted to share specific concerns, many were like Mahar and just wanted to get to know those who serve and protect them. Coffee with a Cop doesn’t have a set agenda. It’s just an open dialogue, and citizens are free to share their concerns or just meet new friends.
Jayne Emery, also a resident of Magnolia Greens, said when citizens see the officers out on the road, they don’t have much of an opportunity to talk.
“They’re busy,” she said. “Because they’re working, they just say a quick hello and that’s it.”
After meeting the officers, Emery had high praises.
“They’re so polite and professional,” she said. “They are just the best.”
The program gives citizens an opportunity to meet the people behind the badge.
“People who have not had very many interactions with law enforcement are surprised to find out we’re just like everyone else,” James said.
Shirley said he had some “great conversations,” and he was looking forward to the next event.
The department has already heard from other eateries around town that would like to host Coffee with a Cop. James hopes to make it a quarterly event.