Police, community talk over Coffee With a Cop

By Ron Eland, Sedona Red Rock News
Original article HERE

It’s all about making a connection.

Eleven officers and staff members of the Sedona Police Department greeted dozens of people who turned out for Coffee With a Cop on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at a coffee shop.

“Ultimately we want to build relationships because the key ingre­dient to building trust is a strong relationship,” SPD Chief Charles Husted said. “This helps us enhance trust within the community and enables the public to have face-to-face contact with somebody in a very casual environment versus them calling 911 or calling for assistance.

“People don’t typically call us to come visit or attend a birthday party — they call us when some­thing is happening. That interaction isn’t neces­sarily negative toward the police, but generally something negative has happened.”

Husted said at the Coffee With a Cop events there is no agenda and no speeches are given. Instead, people can walk up to any officer and start a conversation. Often the talk is maybe about a specific incident or concern, while others are more general. On those lines, he said the police department is all in favor of a neighborhood or homeowner’s association organizing a community meeting in which officers will speak on a specific topic.

“People who haven’t had a lot of positive contact with law enforce­ment might have the mind set that police, in general, are bad for some reason,” Husted said. “This allows us to break that stereotype. It allows us to say, ‘This uniform I wear is simply clothing. It’s no different than the scrubs the nurse wears or what the postman wears. We’re human beings just like everyone else.’”

Events like Coffee With a Cop and National Night Out are not only beneficial for the public but for the officers as well, Husted said.
“This allows the offi­cers to see the great community that we do serve and to know that their job matters,” he said. “This is huge for us.”
Lt. Lucas Wilcoxson agreed.

“Coffee With a Cop allows the public to interact with their law enforcement professionals in a less formal atmosphere,” he said. “The public has the opportunity ask any questions they want to any of the officers, animal control, dispatchers and other professional staff at the event. People get to see that we are also part of the community and that we are still people within the community, just wearing different uniforms.”

Samantha Wilson said she came out to ask a few questions while getting to know the officers a little better.

“It was nice getting to talk to them person to person,” she said. “That’s not something you get to do very often. They have a tough job and it’s important to thank them for what they do.”

This was the third Coffee With a Cop during Husted’s nine-month tenure in Sedona. He said the most asked question centered around the traffic and speeders, while the most frequent comment comes from those thanking the SPD for the department’s interaction through social media.

Husted said the large turnout to the event was “rejuvenating.”

“It’s also inspiring because it makes me want to figure how we can better serve our community. We can always get better.”