National Coffee with a Cop Day
As the sun rose in Santa Monica, California, the Santa Monica Police Department prepared for National Coffee With A Cop day on Wednesday, October 4th, 2017. This event was started in 2011 by the Hawthorne Police Department. The purpose of this event is to bring the community and the police department closer together over a cup of coffee. This is the second time the SMPD is participating in this event.
As the event began, the police officers slowly arrived at Groundwork Coffee located at 2121 Cloverfield Blvd in Santa Monica, California. The officers set up a table full of flyers, informing attendees about events around Santa Monica and tips on how to keep one's bike safe. Officers Gustavo Cortez and Richard Verbeck were the first officers to arrive alongside their Crime Prevention Coordinator partners Myesha Morrison and Alexandra Sanchez.
As the time passed , the coffee and the snacks came out. Brad Pollack, a local in the community, was one of the first people to take this opportunity to have a cup of coffee with Officer Verbeck. When asked why he came to the event, he responded, "I took the opportunity to talk to the officer because I’m not in much contact with them." Much like Pollack , many people in their community do not usually have the chance to communicate with a fellow officer. Most contacts occur during a crisis or in a time of need, so there is no chance to stop and chat with them. Both Pollack and Officer Verbeck said "police officers are human" after talking and getting to know each other throughout the event.
Some officers left to other coffee shops hosting similar events around the Santa Monica area. Laughs and smiles were prominent around the event from both sides partaking in this event. Another Santa Monica resident, who requested to be anonymous, had a cup of coffee with Officer Verbeck and Pollack. The resident had discussed his ideas on gun laws and safety, as both Verbeck and Pollack briefly talk about beforehand. Officer Verbeck offered his full attention, agreeing with some of the resident's ideas.
Amanda Robertson came with her kids Summer, 4 years old, and Sienna, 2 years old, to meet the officers. Officer Cortez talked to both Summer and Sienna. After commenting on how much they wanted a badge just like Cortez's, he gave them both SMPD helper stickers that were shaped similar to his own.
Interim Chief Kenneth Semko, appointed on September 29, 2017, made a brief appearance. He talked to the locals asking them about the community and also spoke with the kids at the event. He took photos with the kids before making an exit to go to another coffee shop. Afterwards, Captain Wendell Shirley arrived and talked to the remaining officers and attendees. When asked the purpose of organizing events like this, he responded "The officers are part of the community. They want to interact with the people. Giving them the opportunity to talk and know the officer. It helps make a safer community."
People passed by and had conversations with police officers throughout the two hour event, allowing them the opportunity talk to an officer in a different setting. The SMPD plans to continue hosting this event in addition to more events in the future that they believe will bring them closer to the community. Being such a successful event over the past couple of years, National Coffee with a Cop Day has spread throughout the United States and expanded to Canada, Europe, Australia, and Africa. At the end of the event, the officers gather the leftover flyers, snacks and called it a day.