(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – Johnson County law enforcement agencies recently hosted their second annual Coffee with a Cop event, offering citizens an opportunity to meet local officers and discuss community issues.
People began to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the start of the event Wednesday, Oct. 4, waiting inside the local McDonald’s. More than 50 people attended the event. Warrensburg police officers, Missouri State Highway troopers, Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies, members of UCM Public Safety, Mayor Bryan Jacobs, local citizens and their children all joined together to have coffee and engage in conversation. Some law enforcement personnel were in uniform but others were not.
“Sometimes it’s difficult for people to see through the uniform, so when you have something like this it’s easier to go and approach an officer or we can go approach them,” said Police Chief Rich Lockhart.
During the event, the Warrensburg Police Department handed out free coffee to adults and goody bags filled with stickers and coloring supplies to children.
Coffee with a Cop was created by the Hawthorne, California, Police Department in 2011 to build better relationships with citizens. It was designed to allow officers to meet people in their community in a setting that is non-threatening. Since then, the event has become a national event. The first Wednesday of October is now deemed national Coffee with a Cop day.
The local law enforcement agencies had their first Coffee with a Cop event in 2016 at the Old Drum Coffeehouse and Bakery in downtown Warrensburg. Lockhart was responsible for bringing this event to the city.
He said he decided to change the location this year to make people feel more comfortable.
“People often get discouraged when events are held in the heart of downtown, so I thought it would be a good idea to bring it out,” Lockhart said.
The majority of the contact that law enforcement has with the public happens during emergencies or emotional situations, according to a new release from the Warrensburg Police Department. With this event, officials said they wanted to interact with citizens without someone being a victim or suspect of a crime.
“The idea is that you see the officers as people just like you,” Lockhart said. “I’m married, and I have seven kids. You know, it’s a way to just bond and see that we all have dreams, hopes and aspirations. We all just want to live peacefully and be a part of a community.”
Terrance Moody, the pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Warrensburg, said the event is a good way to get people involved, but it was missing something. He described how the African-American community in Warrensburg struggles with a lot of issues, yet they fail to stress the issue in the right ways and/or in the right places.
“From an African-American standpoint, we’ve got to get better at engaging, communicating and creating the type of dialogue that will help us to understand how we can turn things around,” Moody said.
Moody said he thinks events like this brings the community a step closer to having town hall meetings to help one another understand some of the fears and myths that are out there.
“How can we change this? How can we provide you the assurance that enable you to understand that when things break loose in other communities that it’s not this community?” Moody said.
Next year’s Coffee with a Cop is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 3. For updates, visit warrensburg-mo.com/372/Police-Department.