LIMA — Community members and police officers met around cups of coffee at Biggby Coffee on North Cable Road Wednesday morning for the area’s third annual Coffee with a Cop event.
Several community members showed up, along with law enforcement from the Allen County Sheriff’s Office, the SWAT Team, the American Township Police and the Elida Police Department. Law enforcement listened to concerns and built relationships with the communities they serve.
Allen County Sheriff Matthew Treglia said he has noticed in casual settings like Biggby’s Coffee, people are more open to speaking to law enforcement about their concerns — many of which they may feel do not warrant a visit or call to their local law enforcement agency.
“Instead of picking up the phone and calling because they’re thinking they’re bothering us — which they’re not — in a setting like this they’re drinking coffee and they’re having a good time, [they think] ‘I’m going to bring it up now because everyone’s here,’” Treglia said.
Coffee with a Cop events are held annually in at least 15 countries and across the U.S. on the first Wednesday of October, according to the movement’s website. Its purpose is to increase community policing and provide a platform for productive conversations between police officers and the communities they serve.
Treglia said at community events such as this, his agency often talks about issues they’ve noticed with speeding in particular areas, people running stop signs consistently and loud noises.
Elida Police Department Chief Dale Metzger said he has gone to the last few Coffee with a Cop events, where he’s built relationships with the community and learned about safety concerns in Elida.
Metzger said as a result of a conversation at a previous event, Elida police helped install a “School Bus Stop Ahead Sign” on Ohio State Route 309, where many people were often unsure if they had to stop for buses.
Grace Breston, a retired banker, and Hope White, a hairstylist, said they often stop into Biggby on Buy-One-Get-One free Wednesday mornings for mother-daughter time, and happened to stumble on the Coffee with a Cop event. Breston said she used to be Treglia’s banker and got to catch up with him as a result.
Both Breston and White said they plan to return to the event in the future, and White would like to bring her kids along if they aren’t in school or other events so they can put a “friendly face to the job.”
“It’s nice to see them in the public and actually talking,” White said. “It makes it personable. That whole police officer stigma you can set aside and kind of get to know them as individuals.”
Courtney Brussels said this morning was her second time attending the Coffee with a Cop event, and she returned because she enjoys meeting other people from the community and socializing with the police officers.
While Brussels didn’t have any specific concerns to bring up with the police, she said she feels that if she did, she’d feel more comfortable doing so in this setting than others.
Brussels said she plans to continue attending the event in the future.
Metzger said he and his department have built strong relationships as a result of community outreach, and plans to continue these efforts.
“We wish more people would come out and talk to us; people always stereotype, like talking with the cops is a bad thing,” Metzger said. “It’s not; we’re human just like everybody else. We have families we want to go home to and spend the night with just like everybody else. And we like sitting and talking to people. That’s the biggest thing I like about this — you get involved.”
Reach Jessica Orozco at 567-242-0398, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @JessicaCOrozco.