Sit down, enjoy a cup of Joe and ask a cop anything you want.
Starting at 8 a.m. Aug. 8, officers with the Rock Hill Police Department will convene at the Burger King on Saluda Road to meet with members of the community in an “informal, neutral” space to discuss neighborhood concerns and build relationships over coffee. The restaurant is providing the department with tables to use for the event.
The “Coffee with a Cop” initiative, sponsored by the federal Justice Department, will give residents the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the department’s work where they live, according to a Rock Hill Police Department news release.
Police also want to create an informal meeting time that’s in a “low-stress, relaxed environment to break down the barriers between the police and the public,” said Rock Hill Police Lt. Jim Grayson, who heads the department’s community services division.
The majority of contacts law enforcement has with the public happen during emergencies or emotional situations, police say.. Those situations are not always the most effective times for relationship-building with the community.
Residents can have their questions about law enforcement, neighborhood patrols and crime-fighting strategies answered in a “non-confrontational way,” Grayson said. Nothing’s off limits.
Coffee with a Cop started in 2011 in California when members of the Hawthorne Police Department’s community affairs unit decided to offer neighbors the opportunity to speak with officers in a relaxed environment. They started with about five officers at a McDonalds.
The idea caught on. Coffee with a Cop meetings are now held in more than 175 cities in 36 states. Earlier this year, police departments in Conway and Charleston began offering Coffee with a Cop sessions.
Bolstering relationships between the police and community is paramount and critical to solving and reducing crime, Grayson said.
“If we want to help them ... we need their help,” he said. “We can be reactive to a situation, but to be proactive ... we need their communication.”