Melrose PD hosts ‘Coffee with a Cop’
In a year of widespread tension between police officers and the communities they serve, the Melrose Police Department took time last week to get to know Melrosians over a cup of coffee.
The initiative, part of National Community Policing Week, was a chance for residents to meet members of the department in an informal setting.
“It shows the public that we are just regular folks in a uniform,” said Melrose Police Chief Michael Lyle. “We are no different. We provide for our families and we provide for our community. This shows transparency. We’re here to answer questions.”
There was a day when Melrose officers had walking beats, Lyle said, when they would cruise around with the windows down. The technology that aids police officers today has diminished officer interaction with the community, and events like “Coffee with a Cop” are a chance to reconnect with residents on a more personal level, Lyle said.
“That barrier wasn’t there,” Lyle said. “The old school will impact the new school if we can bring that dynamic forward. I think a lot of departments are trying to get back to that.”
Lyle said the Melrose Police Department is waiting on the arrival of two power-assisted bicycles that he hopes will restore community policing strategies that have been lost over the years.
“We are going to get some officers trained to ride the bicycles so they have the flexibility to take a ride downtown or through the parks and playgrounds,” Lyle said. “I think that builds a rapport with the younger community and the same thing holds true with our seniors.”
More community policing could help increase public understanding of the stresses that officers deal with, Lyle said.
“We know what’s going on throughout the country and it’s very sad,” Lyle said. “I think a ride-along with a police officer has a lot of value so people can see how our level of action goes from zero to 60. If they deal with an emergency call and there is another call waiting, that does take a toll on officers.”
Training, Lyle said, is the number one tool in law enforcement.
“I can’t stress enough how important training is for our police officers,” Lyle said. “And when I say ‘our,’ I mean our community.”
Ethan Weinberg, 4, was one member of the community to join officers around a circular table at Bruegger’s Bagels. He was there for research.
“I’m going to be a police officer for Halloween,” Weinberg told the officers, adding that he already has a whistle and handcuffs.
Melrose Police Sergeant Brian Ladner took a seat next to Weinberg and handed him a sticker police badge to add to his costume.