Wednesday , March 07, 2018 - 5:00 AM1 comment
OGDEN — The Ogden Police Department is serious about its duty to protect and serve.
And last Friday, that service included free cups of coffee for the public.
On Friday, March 2, the department’s community policing division hosted its latest “Friday Morning Coffee with OPD,” a two-hour meet-and-greet held at a different local coffee shop each month. This time around, more than half a dozen officers converged on Weber State Downtown, shooting the breeze with community members and picking up the tab for cups of drip coffee.
“It’s been a huge success,” said OPD Master Officer Camryn Faiola. “When we held this at Grounds for Coffee, St. Joseph Elementary bussed a load of kids in. They brought us thank you cards and asked us questions.”
Diana Lopez, the community coordinator for OPD, launched the monthly event in December 2016. Held on the first Friday of each month, it’s patterned after similar programs throughout the country.
Lt. Brian Eynon, who is responsible for community policing in the department, said the public seems to be responding to this attempt at reaching out.
“It’s a nice time to interact with the community,” Eynon said. “We have a few regulars who come most months, and we might have someone drop by with a fix-it ticket to sign, or who wants to learn about law enforcement.”
The primary goal of Friday Morning Coffee with OPD, according to Eynon, is to bring the police and community members together. Through outreach efforts like this, he hopes people can get past the “Oops, why are the cops here?” mentality to simply, “The cops are here.”
“It’s an opportunity to be regular folks with the regular folks,” Eynon said. “It’s been fun — our officers look forward to it every month.”
But beyond that, Eynon says these monthly meetings are an opportunity for police officers to learn about community issues they might not have been aware of. And he says that communication is key.
“They get to strike up a conversation, and develop a brief relationship,” he said. “It definitely pays dividends in the long run.”
Faiola says, so far, those conversations have been respectful and civil.
“We haven’t had anybody come in and try to pick a fight with us,” she said.
The informal meetings attract all ages, and police officers have stickers and toys they pass out to the children, according to Eynon.
Two-year-old Kenadi was at Friday’s event with her parents, Monica and Jeremy Bare, of Plain City. Police officers had showered Kenadi with assorted little toys, and she wore a police badge sticker someone had affixed to her coat.
“My husband is trying to pursue law enforcement, so we came down to see what it was like,” Monica Bare said. “I think my daughter is loving it.”
The couple also has a 7-year-old son, but he was at school that day. Mom said he’ll be sorry he missed it, as he wants to be a K-9 police officer when he grows up.
“He’s got his own little police uniform, and he goes around writing us tickets,” Monica Bare said. “Like, I got a ticket for not letting him have chocolate milk one day. And he gives out tickets when we pick things up around the house.”
Jeremy Bare said he took the Peace Officer Standards and Training entrance exam just out of high school, but he was turned down and says he “let it go.” Today, at 33, he’s back pursuing that dream.
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“I will get there,” Jeremy Bare said of a career in law enforcement. “This is what I want to do for a living.”
Another visitor at the coffee meet, Keith Hellewell, of Harrisville, appreciates the opportunity to associate with the officers in a relaxed atmosphere.
“I think this gets them out in public to show that they’re human, like the rest of us,” he said. “Here, people can see the other side of them.”
Karl Dumas of West Point turned up at Friday’s coffee with a cop to show his appreciation for the officers’ hard work.
“I wanted to show them support; I want to develop that relationship,” said Dumas, who regularly volunteers with the Ogden Rescue Mission. “Besides, I like free coffee.”
Dumas especially likes the idea that, unlike when police are called to a dispute or crime scene, this is a non-threatening situation where officers have a chance to explain what they do and why.
Tyler Cahoon manages Weber State Downtown, where this month’s cops-and-coffee event took place. He called the event a “good thing.”
And, with the cops offering free java, Cahoon says it doesn’t hurt business. It helps bring people into his establishment who maybe haven’t been there before.
Detective Tessie Zarogoza is a community resource officer with the Weber State University Police Department. She showed up to this month’s event because it was held at Weber State Downtown.
Zarogoza said WSU Police are thinking about implementing a similar idea for students on campus, possibly a couple of times a semester. She thinks these “coffee with a cop” events make police officers much more approachable.
“The police and community can interact on a human level,” she said. “It humanizes the badge.”
Attendance varies at the coffee events. They’ve had as many as 40 people at one time, according to Eynon. Last Friday’s event saw only a handful of community members show up, but officers speculated an approaching winter storm may have discouraged some from attending.
And Eynon says it only takes one community member showing up to make Friday Morning Coffee with OPD a success.
“Not to sound cliche,” he said, “but even if just one person has their attitude changed toward police, or one police officer changes an attitude about the community, it’s worth it.”
Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.
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